Brazil First in the World to Go Fully Digital for National Census

Despite having the opening question of its national census be: do you use a hole in the ground or open cesspit for a toilet? Brazil, a country stricken with poverty, is leading the world in moving to smartphones and converting to a fully digital national census. The country will be employing 150,000 LG GM750 smartphones running on the Windows Mobile operating system to collect responses, data, photos, and GPS location for improved accuracy in census reporting.

The Brazilian government says that a digital census will be better than using the old pen and paper method, citing accuracy of location data with the aid of geo-location with the use of GPS. Street names, buildings, and locations can also be incorporated as needed, and mapping will also become more accurate. Adjustments can also be made as needed. According to the census office, “up to 5 per cent of households are incorrectly located in traditional censuses compared with 0.5 per cent of digital data.”

Data collected will be backed up on the smartphone, which is readily available as an off-the-shelf solution and only requires customized software for the census, on two different memory cards and will also be transferred and backed up to the data collection center wirelessly as well.

Observers note that digital census efforts in other technologically advanced countries, like the U.S., have failed because in the case of the United States, the company tasked with handling the digital approach–Harris Corporation–had to create custom hardware and software. In Brazil’s case, only custom software was needed.

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