Eleven years ago, the last Population and Housing Census (PHC) was organised in the country. It brought in its wake some useful lessons.
Ghana has, since 1960, conducted five population censuses in 1960, 1970, 1984, 2000 and 2010, with the last two being population and housing censuses.
Yet another civic obligation, with a focus to help influence better policies for improved living standards, beckons the nation.
And so from the night of June 27 to July 11, this year, the listing and enumeration of households and people in the 2021 PHC will officially take place across the country.
This national exercise, which targets every individual in the country, including newborn babies and the aged, will also see the official headcount of all persons, including those in transit and in short stay in facilities such as hospitals and guest houses.
In the spirit of leaving no one behind, on June 13, the census begins with field data collection, listing all structures, including details on other socio-demographic characteristics that will form the basis to inform various policy decisions by the government and other development agents for the next 10 years.
I recall some of the useful lessons from previous censuses which border on the marking of houses. Marking of houses can sometimes be very annoying if enough public education does not take place.
With the appropriate education, the citizenry will be on the same page with the census enumerators and bear with them to mark their structures with chalk or paint as part of the listing. This is necessary because the enumerators will be relying on those markings when they begin gathering real-time data between June 28 and July 11.
It will equally be wrong for any citizen to be hostile towards census officials. I recall the difficulties some census officials had, penetrating especially gated communities and hotels in previous censuses.
There are also occasions when census officials could not be properly identified. In the process, all manner of persons paraded as census officials or officials from the Ghana Statistical Service, with the view to exploit innocent citizens.
Here, all citizens, notwithstanding their support for the national exercise, must keep and remain vigilant to avoid being exploited by any enumerator or fake enumerators. If in doubt, do not allow suspicious people into your homes. It is better to stay safe than to find oneself in harm’s way.
It is unique to know that it is the first fully digital census to be conducted in Ghana because it involves the use of electronic tablets and the internet to capture and transfer the information respectively.
This will guarantee the delivery of high quality and faster results to support the decision-making process.
While reckoning the importance of technology, it also presents some challenges because not every community has internet connectivity that will easily help transmit data.
Although the use of electronic tablets and the Internet to gather data may face challenges in communities without stable internet connections, it would nevertheless enhance data quality, all things being equal, as compared to the use of traditional paper questionnaires.
It is assuring that the GSS has used the digital approach for a number of smaller sample surveys but in this case, the exercise involving at least 80,000 enumerators performing different functions and every part of the country has to have a fallback plan.
There are tremendous benefits to be derived from the outcome of a good census. Census data will help us to know many things including the number of household, male and female population, sanitation issues as well as diverse economic activity all with the view to accelerating national development efforts and save lives and livelihoods.
It is therefore everybody’s civic duty to do all that is required, on non-partisan cooperation, to support this national development exercise. There is need for all citizens to ensure that the exercise succeeded by providing timely and accurate information to census officials.
A lot has gone into making the national exercise a success.
Now that the countdown to census night has begun, all district assemblies, political, religious and traditional leaders, the business community, civil society, academia, opinion leaders and the entire citizenry must all get involved and use their various platforms to support the process for the sake of the country’s progress.
It will be an indictment on this country to go through this exercise and not reap the benefits thereof.
With such a very important national assignment in the offing, there is the need for all stakeholders to get actively on board. The census is for everybody within the boundaries of Ghana. It’s important we all get involved to make the census a success. After all census is not a census unless everyone is counted.