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The e-governance approach to register-based census, based on the case of the GCC countries: A research note

Canadian Studies in Population published in its recent issue vol 45 a research paper titled “The e-governance approach to register-based census, based on the case of the GCC countries: A research note“ by dr. Suliman bah and Jaffar Mansour the managing partner of RealSoft.

The paper discusses the experience of the Scandinavian countries -which lead the registers based statistics in the world- and how they started the journey to RBS census with the development of population register; and then initiated one register at a time until all the registers required for conducting a register-based census were put in place. When that stage was reached, the register-based census (RBC) would then be conducted, given that the other necessary conditions were in place.

As GCC countries in general don’t have what we call the “enabling factors” in Scandinavian countries; for example the paper noticed that the GCC-statistical offices are not supported by strong Empowering Acts, and it doesn’t have an established practice of publishing statistics from the registers. In addition, some of these countries don’t have a complete civil register or the required level of collaboration between the national statistics office and the owners of the data. Thus, the paper discussed the e-governance program as a replacement approach for the RBC implementation.

To implement an e-governance initiative in any country, the personal identity number is mandatory at a point of time, as it forms the primary integration key between different services and processes, in addition it is used as search field for the population identity number database. This database would then be accessed by different government departments (e.g., vehicle registration, traffic, and utilities as G2G) and private businesses e.g., banks as G2B) when they need to. Since the different departments collect additional information on their clients in their databases, in total these databases contain large amounts of information on individuals. with data linkage and a logical strategy, it is possible -in ideal case- to harness this information to conduct RBC.

However, the paper highlighted several “disenabling factors” of  RBC implementation in GCC countries; one major factor is the position of national statistics offices in the e-government programs, the study found out that NSOs in some cases are in direct competition with

other governmental agencies whose mandates overlap with theirs. And in general NSOs don’t play key role in e-government program.

The paper pointed out to the strong RBC-enabling factors in the GCC countries which are universal acceptance of the personal ID number and the high level of e-governance penetration and the broader use of e-government services.

The approach to implement RBC as summarized in the paper is to start with the minimum number of recommended variables to be included in the 2020 round of censuses for the GCC countries (GCC basket). Each country should start with those variables and try to map them on the existing databases used in e-governance. Once this has been done, the data should then be extracted and put in a census database for further analysis.

This approach is being implemented in Sharjah this year in an initiative called “Tabdul” or eXchange. The department of statistics and social development in Sharjah has partnered with RealSoft to implement the initiative which is planned to finish the first phase on December 2018.



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