Posted by: Jawellnofine on Oct 10, 2011
South Africans have been gripped by a new paranoia. It is called Census 2011.
Census 2011 is the third census count since 1994 – the first being in 1996 then 2001. The ethos behind Census 2011 is based on the United Nations census 2010 programme called The Population and Housing Census Programme that was initiated in 2006.
An integrated approach has been used to develop the Census 2011 strategy. “The process has involved tapping the views of diverse stakeholders at national and provincial levels as well as recognizance of international best practice.”
Census 2011 has the following ideals:
“Vision: To be an acclaimed leader in conducting quality censuses.
Mission: To plan, collect, process, analyse and disseminate high quality data by ensuring full participation of all stakeholders and effective and efficient count of every person in the country through the establishment of a culture of continuous evaluation and improvement.
Goal: To ensure that everyone who spent the census night in the country is counted.”
Now that in itself is a noble approach to the thorny challenges present in the South African Society: residential security measures e.g. walled in residences, long working hours e.g. leave early return late, overriding social suspicion, lack of governmental leadership e.g. just do as we ask, wide spread informal settlements, worry over tax and or immigration status, etc.
It is the social suspicion that is so rampant is South Africa that amuses me the most. Not only are some sectors of the social environment more susceptible to this type of sickness but are downright destructive about it as well. From ‘they will not come into my house,’ to ‘they can wait for me,’ are common phrases doing the rounds.
I have also heard rumors such as ‘they are using pencils to fill in the questionnaire’ and ‘why do they need my signature on the questionnaire’? These two, I must admit, are bothersome per se. Why use a pencil and why must I sign the questionnaire; are these things not supposed to be anonymous and confidential? Not that the governmental spin lends any credence to the issue: ‘it is in case they make mistakes’ and ‘so that they have physical proof that they were at a given residence when they put in their expenses claim’!?
I understand why national census must be undertaken on a regular basis. Knowledge of social demographics is paramount to any successful business and government is no different. It needs the information to be able to plan ahead successfully. What I don’t understand is the parochial marketing strategy behind the whole exercise; telling the public to just ‘stand up and be counted’ does not cut-it in modern social norms. It is like the old marketing axiom of ‘it is the right thing to do.’ Is it?
Modern life is opinionated, knowledge abundant and negatively transmitted across many mediums and formats in a blink (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) The fact is that the people need to know more and more. Information is king. The people need to be Educated rather than instructed.
Personally I don’t have a problem or issue with the whole census undertaking. I have learnt where to bend the rules and to where apply common sense when divulging sensitive information; although I must add that I also know that anyone who works or has a credit account is susceptible to information theft by almost anyone.
Making the lives of the poor enumerators difficult will not solve anything. Maybe this time, doing the right thing is the correct thing to do.