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States of Guernsey launches e-census



New system works without requiring the public to provide any information

The States of Guernsey has used a new digital system, developed by the local mapping agency Digimap, to replace its paper based census.

The island's government - which also presides over Alderney, Herm and Sark - began to use the system in March and has already produced the first population report with a view to providing updates much more frequently than the traditional five to 10 years.

Colin Le Conte, managing director of Digimap, told UKAuthority that the new system collates information from different government sources to provide the census. It can also take information from third parties that the government might request, but it does not require the public on the islands to fill in any online or paper forms.

"Nobody has to type in anything," he said. "People expected to have to fill it in online, but it's not like that at all.

"It makes it possible to produce a census every three months if required, and you don't have to ask for information every time.

The government probably holds most of the data it needs and it can do mini-censuses, or go to organisations such as telcos for specific projects."

He said that Digimap and the government spent 18 months developing the system, but that the cost was lower than that for running a single census.

The e-census has algorithms for dealing with any contradictions or inconsistencies between data sources, although this will sometimes need a human intervention. The company is aiming to ensure the system conducts 98% of its processes automatically in the future.

Only the census officers have access to the core data, and the system can provide information on subjects such as parish populations, school catchment areas and voting districts.

Local advantage

Le Conte said it has probably been easier to develop the system for States of Guernsey than it would have been for many jurisdictions as it is relatively small and has a small population, but more importantly the boundaries are the same for all the agencies providing information.

He added that it could be used by other governments, citing Jersey as the obvious example, and that there has been significant interest in the project.

Digimap director of software development John Surcombe said: "The system has many potential uses. Demographic information is increasingly important to modern governments and this system makes this information easier to access.

"Importantly it also does not burden the individual. There are no forms to fill in or extra information to provide. It works based on information that people already give to government."

"What is more Guernsey is the first place in Europe to launch an e-census like this so we are excited at the potential for similar systems to be developed in other jurisdictions."

Image from Digimap

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