ABU DHABI // Remember where you were last night - some time in the next three weeks, you may need to.
Census workers begin knocking on doors throughout the emirate today in the first population survey for more than five years.
One of the aims is to create a snapshot of Abu Dhabi between sunset last night and sunset this morning, called Census Reference Night, with a count of every resident and every guest in every home.
To ensure accuracy, the census workers, or enumerators, will be equipped with the latest tablet computer technology. "The 2011 Census is the first time that people across the emirate will be providing their census information to enumerators using iPads," said Dr Yousif Al Hammadi, the project's methodology team leader.
"This allows the information to be safely and quickly sent back to the head office for analysis."
Residents will be asked for personal details including name, age, occupation, nationality and marital status. Thousands of paper forms have already been distributed in preparation for the door-to-door data collection and field work by 6,000 enumerators, which continues until October 27.
"The emirate is made up of a wide range of different sorts of people with different characteristics," Dr Al Hammadi said. "To help government departments and other providers of services understand more about them, it is important that everyone takes part.
"If we miss even small groups of the population, then their needs cannot be taken into account in planning for the future."
The information will be used in new ways. The Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi (Scad) is developing online tools for users to access data on regional and local levels. "This will allow them to understand the characteristics of different parts of the emirate," Dr Al Hammadi said.
"Providing data at this level means government departments and others will have a much better idea of the needs of communities in different parts of the emirate."
Everyone is expected to participate in the census. If no one is at home when enumerators call, they will leave a note asking residents to make an appointment. Most details will be entered electronically, but residents can fill in the form and seal it in the envelope provided before the enumerator arrives.
Residents must provide real names to ensure no one is counted twice. Additionally, Scad will conduct research after the census to map the regions where Emirati and tribal groups have settled.
Each region poses its own challenges, necessitating special training for enumerators working off Abu Dhabi island.
"The Western Region contains a lot of farms and people living in remote areas," Dr Al Hammadi said. "In some parts of this region, enumerators will travel many kilometres to make sure everyone is counted."
In the capital, the challenge will be knocking on every door in large tower blocks and sprawling residential villa complexes.
Scad officials were reluctant to reveal expectations, but Dr Al Hammadi said the Government was looking forward to crunching the data and finding trends in the statistics. "All of this preparation and planning and studying methodology and training is finally going to be real," he said.
Provisional census results are expected in December and full results next year.
At least one resident will be prepared when the knock comes at his door. Adeeb Al Hammadi, 26, received the form several days ago at the Khalidiya apartment where he is staying while his home in Shahama is renovated, and has begun filling in the preliminary details.
"I wanted to fill it out before, but I haven't had time," he said.