New Delhi: India’s 2021 Census will be paperless, ThePrint has learnt. The Narendra Modi government has decided to make the entire process of collecting and collating census data completely digital — through an Android-based mobile app.
“We are digitising the process. The government is developing an app which the enumerators will be asked to download on their personal devices. They will then enter all the data in the application as opposed to sheets, which they did earlier,” an official of the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
The app will be tested in the next two months on a sample of 50 lakh residents.
“This data will only be for internal consumption. This will also tell us where we need to get better, and ensure that the process in 2021 goes smoothly,” the official said.
Paper data led to delays
The last census, in 2011, was conducted on paper, featuring descriptive questions. This led to a delay in the results.
“First, the A3-sized ‘paper schedule’ was scanned, read, and then the numerical data was converted through a software. It was a cumbersome process. This time, it has all been digitised,” the MHA official said.
The app, the official said, will also work offline. It will work on a basic smartphone, will be password protected and will allow for data to be collected in 18 languages.
“The enumerator will just be required to move around with the phone, key in details, and it will automatically go to the census database,” the official said.
The format of the questions has also been changed a little, and will now include questions on internet usage in a residence. “Apart from that, some questions have been clubbed to bring down the number of questions,” the official said.
He also added that the government has taken extra care to make a secure application, ensuring that the data transfer takes place over a secured network, to protect the personal details of billions of people.
The census will be carried out in three phases — the house enumeration will take place from April to September 2020, the population enumeration from 9 to 28 February 2021, and then a revision round, from 1 to 5 March 2021.
“In the first phase, the number of offices and residential houses will be listed. The second phase will include details of head of families and working professionals. The third phase will be used to collect data on any recent births or deaths, so that the final list can be updated,” he said.