Only accuracy can guarantee good planning after the census

Saturday January 5 2019

Nani Juttla, a resident at Muthangari responds

Nani Juttla, a resident at Muthangari responds to Caroline Chelugui, an enumerator during the National Census day on August 24,2009. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GLADYS BURINI
By GLADYS BURINI
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Here’s a word we will all be personally engulfed in for most of this year: census. The ancient Roman term, stemming from the Latin word censere or to estimate, will be taking place this year after a decade. What are your estimates of the Kenyan population in 2019? A) 48 million, B) 50 million, C) 55 million, D) Somewhere in between. Either way, assumptions will be set aside by the true figure in August.

WRONG FIGURES

Thanks to the progress in technology and us with it, this year’s census will be digitised. We now move from a paper based to a paperless, wireless census. Gone are the days of filling in paper questionnaire forms which were at risk of being altered, destroyed or lost. While a paperless census is also bonus to the environment, does it absolve all of the previous risks from a paper-based census?

With a wireless census, there still remains a risk of bad faith in conducting the census where the enumerators collect the wrong data, do not enter the data correctly or worse, enter the wrong figures. We cannot be too naive about these possible errors having recently questioned foul play in the use of data in last general election. Given the magnitude of the task at hand, we as Kenyans gravely concerned with the use of our painstakingly paid taxes would like to believe there will be good faith in conducting the census that results in an accurate figure that is a true reflection of the Kenyan national population.

Though each of us cannot personally police every enumerator hired by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, we would like to believe the 200,000 enumerators will be cautious and take into due consideration the effect of having correct figures. If some area is not properly canvassed to the last child, adult and senior citizen, how will we hold our county government to account when it comes to constituency fund allocation? What then will me make of the Equalisation Fund for marginalised counties versus the ones we deem worthier of the assigned funds?

SENIOR CITIZENS

Competition for national and county funds aside, the census is our signpost reflecting how we have grown as one; Kenyan. It is not an exercise of collective data division of the Kenyan population and the highest number gets rewarded. If that flawed theory was the case, look around your constituency and county, are you reaping the rewards of holding a high number?

Rather bizarrely and very onset into the year, much like most things of national interest, the 2019 census is already being politicised. Murmurs of an unexpected growth in certain regions is steadily being used, a weapon of words. These kinds of whispers if internalised turn into hairline fractures dividing a steadily united nation.

Let us not be distracted or easily swayed from the purpose of the census. It is there to check and consequently challenge the national housing capacity against the population. It is here as a true indication of our demographic dividend with the exact number of youths in Kenya who beseech to be heard but are often dismissed with no valid explanation. The census is there to speak for the senior citizens whose voices often go unheard yet they still form part of the population. How else would we know how to allocate Older Persons Cash Transfer and confirm every shilling is accounted for? After all it is the senior citizens constitutional right to receive reasonable care and assistance from the State.

'POLITICAL CENSUS'

If you still feel removed from the entire process and it seems to be of no benefit to you, a census is a good data capture for densely populated areas ideal for setting up a business a goal many Kenyans aspire to. But, should we take up and continue with this on set 'political census' this dynamic process seeking accuracy will be tainted with bad faith, lacking public confidence and trust.

We have come of age, capable of conducting a full, non-partisan and accurate census. Despite challenges in conducting this year’s census already being reported; technical preparations, the procurement of digital equipment including 165,000 smart phones and training of 200,000 enumerators for the exercise, the Bureau has at least 7 months to right any wrongs. God forbid we witness public faux pas of last minute procurement and details hastily being finalised calling into question the whole exercise.

For every single Kenyan, let's be optimistic for an accurate census that accounts for each and every one of us by taking part in it. For the Bureau tasked with a costly census of Sh18.5 billion and its 200,000 enumerators, the onus lies entirely with you to deliver a thorough first digital census in the history of Kenya. Will you live up to our expectations? We sure hope so!

Happy census year 2019!

Ms Burini works with an international airline on dispute resolution. [email protected]

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