Stefan Schweinfest – Why The 2020 Census Is An Enormous Opportunity

By on 26/08/2014
The UN Headquarters in New York

The United National Statistics Division has a new Director – Stefan Schweinfest. In an exclusive interview with Global Government Forum, he talked about the challenges facing his department but he also announced the programme ahead for the next round of national censuses.

The UN is about to declare the next census decade, from 2015 to 2024. There is a recommendation that every country in the world conducts a census in that period. There is also a recommendation that the census is done around the mid point of the decade, hence 2020.

What will be different this time around is the opportunity to ‘geocode’ the statistics. This is part of the work by UN’s Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM). Geocoding means to add location to statistics, as Stefan Schweifest explains:

‘If you can geocode certain statistics then you can tell where people live, how poverty is distributed, how crime is distributed and so on. So in the case of a disaster, you can say what population groups are affected, what are the infrastructures, or factories that would be affected and so on.

‘If we can bring statistics and geospatial information together it will create a very powerful analytical tool. The 2020 census is one enormous opportunity to geocode the information. It will make the next generation of statistics much easier to allocate to maps.’

He acknowledges concerns about the protection of data both for individuals and enterprises and sees that protection as core to his department’s role: ‘Public trust is very important, and is based on information management; institutions respecting privacy and confidentiality; and establishing a record of authoritative, scientific data that has not been politically interfered with.’

Above all, he reminds us why advances in statistics and geospatial information can mean major improvements for the national census in each country:

‘If we look at a situation in a country I don’t believe we are trying to take pictures. We are trying to make a movie. What we are really measuring is development over time.’

The full interview and profile with Stefan Schweinfest can be viewed here.

About Graham Scott

Graham is an experienced editor and publisher and an award-winning writer. He has travelled extensively and is interested in world cultures.

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