By UN Statistics Division, 2009.
Data capture in census is the system used to convert the information obtained in the census to a
format that can be interpreted by a computer. Whilst it is acknowledged that data capture is only one
small part of a national census project it is deemed to be one of the most critical, costly and time
consuming activities of a population and housing census. Rapid advances in data-capture technology,
especially optical, have greatly increased the speed and reliability of producing census databases in
an accurate and timely manner. Nevertheless in the recent past many countries have faced
difficulties in mastering these technologies, sometimes by lack of preparation or sufficient knowledge
to avoid the numerous pitfalls.
In order to build knowledge on the vast amount of information presented and collected during these
workshops, this technical report has been prepared to help countries in their planning of their next
population and housing census.
The largest part of the budget for undertaking a national census is used in acquiring the temporary
labour necessary to run the census, with the data capture and information technology (IT) systems
being a much smaller part. Due consideration needs to be given to both personnel and IT systems to
compliment each other and ensure the smooth delivery of the census results. The data capture part
of a census should not be viewed in isolation as it and other systems before and after it have
This report is intended to give the reader an insight into the various technical options available for
data capture and how they apply to each method. It should be pointed out combinations of these
described methods have been used to good effect by some countries; therefore each method is not
necessarily mutually exclusive. The circumstances relating to any method/s chosen relates directly to
each nation’s specific needs and requirements.
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