Data collection imperative to rebound from pandemic, plan for future – PM Mitchell at CARICOM Census Launch

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Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell, has welcomed the innovative uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Census.

At least six countries in the Region are to undertake pandemic-delayed Census activities this year. Barbados launched its Census on 1 August and began enumeration exercises a day later. Grenada launched its Census in July and will begin activities in September. Activities in St. Kitts and Nevis, The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Dominica will be held later in the year.

Countries will use three methods to conduct the Census: Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI); Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI); and via the internet, Computer Assisted Web Interviewing (CAWI).

“One positive impact of the pandemic is that it has forced us to make better use of the available technology. I am pleased to note that for this Census Round, countries will include innovative approaches, such as Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing, using devices such as tablets and laptops to locate the dwellings of people to be interviewed and to capture the data of all individuals. Given the pandemic, countries are also likely to use the telephone system and the internet to capture census data. As the Prime Minister with responsibility for Science and Technology in the CARICOM quasi-Cabinet, I welcome these innovative uses of ICT in the census,” said Prime Minister Mitchell who is a champion of statistics in the Region.

He was at the time delivering the feature address at the CARICOM Regional Launch of the Census which was held virtually on 3 August 2021. The theme for this Round of Census in the Region is ‘Leave no one behind, Everyone counts!’ The theme, Prime Minister Mitchell said, reflected an urgent plea to save lives, restore and improve livelihoods and build resilience across CARICOM, starting with people households, villages, towns and respective countries.

He rallied CARICOM citizens and residents to show patriotism and dedication to their respective countries and to the entire Region, by participating in the Census. Speaking against the background of the pandemic and the ongoing impact of climate change on the Region, he pointed out that it was imperative to collect data to assess how the occurrences had affected the Region, and to better plan for the future. He added that the data would also help countries to adjust to “this new normal” and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Highlighting some of the other uses of the data to be collected via the Census, Prime Minister Mitchell pointed to information on population distribution within and across countries that would help inform investment decisions of the private sector.

His view resonated with Chairman of the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), Mr. Gervase Warner, who pointed out that most of the decisions that businesses take were driven by data and information. Therefore, the CPSO had a vested interest in the development and maintenance of accurate and timely statistics in the Region.

The Census, he added, was a “critical data collection tool” and forms the foundation for much of our development statistics.

“The Census date would be used as an important benchmark and the population data would be paramount in the development of social and economic indicators,” Mr. Warner said.

The hour-long ceremony which CARICOM Secretariat Communications Programme Manager, Mr. Kendol Morgan hosted, featured a song Ms. Sheereen Brizan, a Grenadian, wrote and performed for the occasion; jingles produced for the Census; as well as remarks by CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan and Chief Statistician of Canada, Mr. Aril Arora.

Amb. Soeknandan told viewers that the Census was regionally coordinated to enable its implementation and to ensure harmonised and high quality results. She recognised the hard work of all the Statistics Bureaus that were involved and expressed appreciation to the Director and Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat Statistics Department.

She said that through the regionally coordinated approach, the Community was adhering to the principles contained in the CARICOM Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS), which CARICOM Heads of Government approved. Some of the principles are:

  • Cooperation in solving common challenges;
  • Sharing of lessons learnt
  • Pooling of statistical skills, conducting training region-wide
  • Sharing of equipment, expertise and resources and crucial
  • Producing harmonised Census data, so that we can develop transparent, evidence-based regional policy

She also called on citizens to participate in the Census activities.

“A lot went into the planning and execution of this mammoth task: since 2014 – conducting of training sessions, usage of smart devices, how to conduct training on-line, and then we had to adjust and deal with COVID challenge.

“I wish each and every one success in this undertaking and want to implore on all the citizens in every corner of the respective countries, be it in the city, in the villages or in the interior to actively participate. In the end, we should be able to use the information by holding those who have to deliver for a better future accountable, so that we all can benefit from evidence-based statistics and results,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

Mr. Arora congratulated the CARICOM Secretariat on the launch. He said that the Secretariat’s role as the Census coordinator, its application of a regional Census strategy and its work with national, regional and international partners “will undoubtedly benefit countries by leveraging common solutions to challenges, and will promote comparability of data across Member States.”

He wished the Region success in “this important endeavour”, even in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and pledged his country’s continued collaboration with the Secretariat and Member States.

The Government of Canada supports the development of Statistics in CARICOM under a Project for the Regional Advancement of Statistics in the Caribbean. The country is one of many International Development Partners (IDPs) that are providing support to Statistics in CARICOM and specifically to the Census undertaking. Others include the Inter-American Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Government of Italy and a number of UN organisations and specialised agencies.

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