BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The government has launched an online portal for the national population and housing (BPP) census, which will allow residents to submit their questionnaire online without having to undergo in-person interviews with census officers.
The portal was launched on Tuesday by the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (DEPS) to mark World Statistics Day, which falls on October 20.
The BPP census is conducted every 10 years to provide a new benchmark for Brunei’s population and housing profile, and helps shape public policy on education, healthcare, housing, land use and transport.
The next census period is scheduled to begin in January 2021 and will cover all persons living in the sultanate, including citizens, permanent and temporary residents.
What are the aims of the census?
Data collected through BPP 2021 will provide a comprehensive look at Brunei’s population by various demographic, social and economic characteristics.
It will also collect information on the total number of living quarters, disaggregated by housing characteristics and availability of household amenities.
Under the Census Act, it is mandatory for the public to provide answers to the census questionnaire. The law also protects the confidentiality of any information furnished.
Although DEPS provides an annual snapshot of population growth, a comprehensive census is only carried out once a decade.
BPP 2021 is the sixth census of its kind carried out in Brunei Darussalam. The first one was conducted in 1971.
How will information be collected?
During the first stage — set to take place from January 20, 2021 to February 20, 2021 — all housing units will be listed by village/area, mukim and district to ensure full coverage of the census. Census officers will collect information on every household, such as the names and identity card numbers of every person living in the home. Officers will then affix a sticker to each house.
In the second stage — set for April 20, 2021 to June 21, 2021 — the e-Census system will be activated to allow members of the public to fill in the census questionnaire online. The public is encouraged to use this method by registering beforehand. More detailed information from each household member will be collected at this stage covering personal information such as date of birth, education and employment characteristics.
In the third stage — from July 20, 2021 until August 2, 2021 — fieldwork will be conducted for households that have not been covered via the e-Census. Census officers will visit homes to conduct face-to-face interviews, or household members can fill up the questionnaire and arrange for it to be picked up and checked by census officers.
DEPS will appoint temporary field workers to carry out the survey, who can be identified by their individual pass, appointment letters and identity cards provided while on duty. They will also be wearing customised BPP 2021 shirts or DEPS vests.
‘Closing the data gap’
During the launch of the online portal for BPP 2021 on Tuesday, the second minister of finance and economy said the e-Census will improve the quality and consistency of data, as well as improve timeliness in data collection and processing.
“Accurate, fast and reliable data is very important in any planning made by the government,” YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of the need for real-time data.
He also urged the public to use the e-Census, hoping to see widespread adoption of the system when the census begins next year.
Addressing Brunei’s data gaps, the minister said a National Data Coordination Steering Committee had been set up to “strengthen efforts towards reducing the data gap” and in turn provide an accurate picture of issues such as employment and wages, GDP growth and foreign direct investment flows.
The committee will be chaired by the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy Dato Seri Paduka Dr Hj Abdul Manaf Hj Metussin.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin also called on government agencies to focus on building capacity in data analytics, so departments could utilise relevant statistics in their research and policy planning.
He cited the example of the Household Expenditure Survey, which was used to determine the Minimum Cost of Basic Needs. That baseline will now be used in the recently-digitalised National Welfare System to determine the eligibility of a person to receive welfare assistance.
The minister said the committee should facilitate information-sharing between government agencies, while also addressing any legal concerns in doing so.
“Through the sharing of data, it can reduce overlapping work where various agencies collect the same data, and this in turn will be able to reduce government spending on data collection, ” he said. “However, it should also be remembered that privacy and confidentiality of data should always be maintained.”