A population census is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic, and social data pertaining, the people living in a territory.
Censuses provide population numbers and information necessary as it serves as basis for adequate policy planning and formulations.
It reveals the current trend of fertility and mortality, this helps to calculate growth rate and is also necessary for planning for social services and welfare.
This is important in for the Government to understand and plan for the citizens welfare ..
Census reveals the composition of population by age; this information is useful in laying down plans for provision amenities for the different age groups.
It also reveals dependency ratio in the country, the information is used in determining tax relief and calculation of economic policies
The age-sex composition of the population helps to reveal regional imbalances in working and dependence population. And the necessary support programs are put in place this mostly plays a central role in employment and developing of education infrastructures.
Census also guides the Government on nationality and ethnicity of people which may be useful in planning for the distribution of political responsibilities.
The ethnicity is an important tool of understanding cultural behavior of a population.
For instance, ethnicity has been a key factor on the fight against AIDs, for example wife inheritance practices in Western parts of Kenya and also male circumcision which are all centered on tribal practices.
It reveals the place of birth of an individual which may help to know the migration trends.
And for such proper planning of towns and supporting infrastructure is put in place vis a vis the population movement.
Urbanisation is mostly brought about by migration and tradin thus a census becomes an important tool in capturing such trends.
The main objective of a census can therefore be assumed to be to collect demographic and socio-economic data required for policy formulation and decision making in planning processes.
As was well captured in the 2009 census report the Reliability of the Census and Survey Data All are prone to errors, both by coverage and content.
Coverage errors take the form of the omission or faulty inclusion of whole households, or of selected persons within households.
Omissions are more common than faulty inclusions, so that censuses are more often under-counts rather than over-counts (except where there has been a political motive to inflate the numbers as it was the case of 2009 kenya census).
Content errors affect the information on the characteristics of the people enumerated.
Being recorded in the field; and those that arise in the course of the data processing, this can be said for the 2009 census. where for example the Somali population was reportedly altered during the data processing, the intentions suspected to have been to influence in border delimitation and also in resource allocations.
As well as providing data for Government planning and policy-making, census is also a valuable source of data for the private sector.
The main interest for the private sector is usually in data to help make commercial decisions.
For example, a food processing company could use agricultural census data on the number of growers and area for specific crops in each district to help identify suitable sites for its processing plants.
An input supplier could use census data on input use for each crop by district to better understand market opportunities.
Farm machinery suppliers could make use of data on the area of each type of crop grown and the number of growers to assess the potential demand for their products.
A company planning to establish a business in a particular location could use census data to assess the availability of labour and the pool of skills available in that location.
Kagwaini is a policy and governance expert.