Building confidence in Myanmar Census as data processing stage commences

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NAY PYI TAW -- 34 Myanmar national and international media were given a first glimpse of the post enumeration data analyzing process, organized jointly by UNFPA and the Department of Population (DoP), at the Census Office on 21 May 2014 in Nay Pyi Taw, the nation’s capital, to ensure full transparency throughout the various data processing stages. The Census Office is located within the Department of Population.

The objective of the visit to the Census Office was to increase understanding and confidence with key stakeholders such as the media and the population of Myanmar in how the collected census data will be handled, processed, analysed and disseminated. This second phase includes the mammoth task of scanning and capturing data from the over 10 million filled-in census questionnaires collected from all of the 330 townships. Myanmar’s first census in over three decades took place from 29th March to 10 April, 2014.

Mr. Fredrick Okwayo, UNFPA’s Chief Technical Advisor, Dr. Nyi Nyi, Director of Population and Daw Khaing Khaing Soe, Director of Population met with the media group and gave a technical overview of the next phase of the post enumeration activities. These, include the receiving of census questionnaires, preparations carried out prior to the scanning process, actual scanning of the forms, key corrections as well as the coding of ethnicity and occupation/industry and the plans related to the first preliminary release of the analysed data. The first data which is scheduled for release in August 2014 will show the total population of the country up to the Township level, by male and female.

“It is important to maintain the positive momentum and credibility that the census process has already cultivated amongst the public and the international community by ensuring that the rest of the census processes are transparent, accessible and responsive to the needs and interests of different groups who will be directly affected by the results,” said Fredrick Okwayo, UNFPA’s Chief Technical Advisor in his presentation.

The group subsequently toured the Census Office to witness first-hand the meticulous and time consuming process required for preparing and checking the questionnaire forms prior to scanning. For example this involves ensuring that the fields for State/Region, District, Township, Enumeration Area (EA) and household numbers are correctly filled in, including the storing of the questionnaires in carefully marked boxes using a barcode filing system. After scanning the questionnaires are returned to their boxes and placed on designated shelves within the Census Office’s storage facilities.

Mr. Okwayo stressed the importance of the data processing and the need for having complete, reliable and accurate data. “From a technical perspective we have a huge task ahead of us as it is the first time in over thirty years that Myanmar has held a census. This means there is a huge demand for up-to date and accurate population data, hence the need to speed up the data capturing and processing through state of the art scanning technology. Traditional manual capture of data would delay the release of results for several years.”

For the scanning process eight state-of-the-art scanners are being used to expedite the process of data capture. A total of 10 DoP staff have been trained in using the scanners and each scanner is able to process up to 4,000 forms per hour. It is expected that the scanning process will be completed by October 2014.

Over the coming weeks key stakeholders representing the donor community, United Nations agencies, Civil Society Organizations, International NGOs as well as religious and ethnic groups will be invited to tour the census office to see the scanning process for themselves.

The Census process is being implemented by the Department of Population in the Ministry of Immigration and population, with technical and financial support from UNFPA.