Census of Population 2000: Trial Run

Singapore’s Population Census 2000 will adopt a register-based approach. This will be a first in Singapore’s Census taking history, taking full advantage of the existing databases within Singapore’s statistical system. Some 80 per cent of the total population need not file in their Census returns as basic information will be obtained from Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) databases. The other 20 per cent will be surveyed to obtain detailed information needed for policy and planning purposes. The 20 per cent sample is the equivalent of the ‘long form’ sample in the conventional census approach.

To prepare for the Main Census, DOS conducted a Trial Run from 8 December 1999 to 19 January 2000. About 10,000 households were selected to participate. The aims of the Trial Run were to gauge public response to the new modes of enumeration, test integration of the computerized systems, assess the line of questioning and scrutinise data quality for new items.

Lessons learned from the Trial Run

The tri-modal data collection strategy comprising Internet, Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) and Fieldwork, proved to be very convenient to the public.

  • Internet Submission. A significant proportion of the respondents chose to submit their returns via this mode. They enjoyed the comfort of completing the census forms in the privacy of their homes without the need to meet census officers. Information which they provided were encrypted and transmitted securely, but this caused the Internet response time to be slow. Some respondents provided feedback to further improve the efficiency of Internet submission in terms of speed and layout. Census Office is studying these suggestions and is taking steps to shorten the Internet response time for the main Census.
  • CATI. The telephone interviewers called the households for direct interviews. Some respondents also called the Census toll-free hotline to be enumerated. The CATI approach is effective and a majority of households were successfully interviewed using this mode. For the main Census, the number of CATI stations would be increased correspondingly.
  • Fieldwork. The Trial Run forms were designed for optical mark reading (OMR). The electronic data capture system improved overall data capture efficiency as well as data accuracy. As for field visits, it was found that evening enumeration was more productive than day-time visits. Census Office would deploy more fieldworkers in the evenings.

New software for faster processing of data

A new coding software using artificial intelligence (AI) which has been developed for Census 2000 was tested in the Trial Run. The results were very encouraging. Data coding and verification stages had very high throughput ratio. The full integration of IT system allowed faster processing of data besides ensuring data integrity and quality. This means that for the Main Census, significant productivity gains could be expected in data processing.

The Trial Run proved to be a success and an invaluable learning experience. Both IT systems and operational procedures are now being fine-tuned for the Main Census. The new adjustments will be implemented with public convenience in mind as well as to improve system efficiency and effectiveness. Overall, the Trial Run proved that our approach to census taking is efficient and effective.

HISTORY OF CENSUS TAKING IN SINGAPORE
1871 First Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1880 First Census Ordinance in Singapore was enacted
1881 Second Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1891 Third Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1901 Fourth Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1911 Fifth Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1921 First Statistics Ordinance on the establishment of a Statistical Bureau
1921 Sixth Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1931 Seventh Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1947 Census of The Federation of Malaya and Colony of Singapore (8th in the series)
1957 Census of Population, Singapore (9th in the series)
1970 First Census of Population, Singapore after independence (10th in the series)
1980 Second Census of Population, Singapore after independence (11th in the series)
1990 Third Census of Population, Singapore after independence (12th in the series)
2000 Fourth Census of Population, Singapore after independence (13th in the series)