Digi-census from Next Year: A New Era of Digital Data Collection or Just a Gimmick?

As part of the census preparations, the National Population Register will be linked with the birth-death registration system. Geo-fencing and geo-referencing techniques will also be implemented for improved accuracy.

Srajan Girdonia
New Update

After being postponed for two years, the long-awaited Census 2021 in India will now take the form of a digital count next year. This groundbreaking move marks the country's first-ever digital census, revolutionizing the way population data is collected. In this digital census, individuals will have the opportunity to participate through self-enumeration, where they can fill out the census questionnaire on the Self-Enumeration Portal. To facilitate this process, it is essential for individuals to update their information online in the National Population Register (NPR) and provide their mobile number and Aadhaar details.

Linking NPR with Birth-Death Registration

As part of the census preparations, the National Population Register will be linked with the birth-death registration system. An amended birth-death registration act, similar to the pre-20 act bill, will be introduced to ensure accurate recording of births and deaths. The NPR will be enhanced by integrating various identification documents such as voter registration, Aadhaar numbers, passports, ration cards, and driving licenses by 2021. The NPR serves as the foundation for the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) and collects census data at the central level. However, individual data cannot be shared with states or other government departments.

Introduction of Geo-Fencing and Geo-Referencing for Accuracy

To enhance the accuracy of data collection, geo-fencing and geo-referencing techniques will be implemented for the first time in the census process. Surveyors will utilize a digital app that will only function within designated areas. If they move outside these areas, warning alerts will be triggered. These measures have been put in place to ensure precise and reliable survey results.

Understanding the National Population Register (NPR)

The NPR aims to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in India. It encompasses both demographic and biometric details and is being developed at the local, sub-district, district, state, and national levels under the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. A usual resident is defined as an individual who has resided in a local area for at least six months or intends to reside in that area for the next six months or longer.

Advantages of a Digital Census

The shift to a paperless census brings several advantages and opportunities for India. Firstly, a digital census reduces the need for physical storage space, allowing the government to save on storage costs and reduce environmental impact by minimizing paper consumption. Additionally, the adoption of technology in the census process paves the way for the integration of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Furthermore, going digital helps reduce the overall cost of the census project. In terms of data security, digital records are more difficult to tamper with, as any attempts to alter the data can be easily traced and punished under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Challenges and Disadvantages

Despite the numerous benefits, a digital census does come with its own set of challenges. Digital data is more vulnerable to piracy, and if breached, it can be misused by private agencies for personal gain. Ensuring robust security measures will be crucial to safeguard the collected data from potential threats. Furthermore, there may be concerns regarding data breaches by hostile countries, necessitating stringent measures to protect national security interests. Additionally, individuals who are digitally illiterate may face difficulties in participating and registering for the census, highlighting the need for adequate support and assistance to ensure inclusivity.

Looking Ahead to a Digital Future

India's upcoming digital census marks a significant milestone in the country's data collection journey. With its potential to streamline operations, reduce environmental impact, and pave the way for technological advancements, a paperless census heralds a new era of data management and analysis. As the preparations for the digital census continue, the government must address the associated challenges and ensure robust security measures to protect citizens' data and uphold their privacy. The digital census represents an opportunity for India to strengthen its data infrastructure and provide valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, businesses, and global agencies to drive informed decision-making and development across the nation.