x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Technical hitch, then full steam ahead for census

Technological glitches on the first night of door-to-door census data collection have been fixed, officials said.

ABU DHABI // Thousands of census takers took to the streets of the emirate last night after technical glitches held them up for four hours on Tuesday.

Teams from all three municipalities equipped with iPad tablets were knocking on doors in the first population survey for five years.

Data collection on Tuesday had been delayed because stickers used by census workers to mark which homes they had already visited were not delivered to the 37 census centres.

"Not everybody was ready," said Wael Al Zoubi, the site chief at Zayed Al Thani school in Khalidiya, one of 37 being used as command centres for the census.

"It's very difficult to start. Also today, we are a little bit late.

But by 6.30pm the auditorium that had been filled with nearly 100 census takers was empty and only supervisors remained.

“I am now relaxed,” Mr Al Zoubi said, leaning back in his chair. “More than yesterday. The second day, it’s not very, very easy – but it’s easier than the first day.”

The empty auditorium was a contrast with Al Ittihad School in Al Bateen on Tuesday evening, when around 100 census staff dressed in grey vests marked with the logo of the Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi (Scad) waited patiently to go to work.

Many of the workers, with their vests over their kanduras, abayas and suits, carried iPads to record census information, but others had not received theirs.

In other parts of the emirate, census takers, also called enumerators, were unable to load neighbourhood location maps on to their iPads.

Some teams did manage to go out after 7pm without the tablet computers, many to collect the paper questionnaires distributed earlier to hotels, prisons and labour camps.

Scad yesterday said all the problems had been addressed and door-to-door visits would continue as scheduled for the rest of the month.

“Everyone is ready to go out now,” said Lubna Al Maskari, the head of communications at Scad. “Everything is working.”

Ghanem Al Mehairbi, the head of statistics information systems for Scad, said the stickers had arrived and would ensure households were not visited twice.

“Inshallah, we have them now, and we will be able to go out as we planned,” Mr Al Mehairbi said. The iPad maps were also now loading.

Census takers will visit between 4pm and 9pm from Sunday until Thursday, and might also work some mornings or weekends.

The census will ask personal details including name, age, occupation, nationality and marital status. More than 6,000 census workers are involved in the data collection and fieldwork phase, in which every home in the emirate will be visited by October 27.

Scad aims to count all residents and guests who were in the emirate on Monday night, called Census Reference Night.

Householders will be asked to answer questions about all guests who were at their home between sunset on Monday and sunrise on Tuesday.

Ms Al Maskari said people responded well to the enumerators on the first day of fieldwork, but initial feedback revealed that residents were requesting more information and explanation from the census takers.

“There are still going to be a few challenges, but we will know more in two or three days when we have spoken to more people,” she said.