National census directors from around the world are meeting in New York to discuss the strategies used in counting populations.
Virtually every nation in the world conducts a census, usually every five or 10 years. The census officials say the quality of the information can be extremely important in developing national policies on issues such as education, housing and transportation.
The week-long meeting, sponsored by the United Nations, provides the census officials with a forum to exchange ideas and experiences.
At a news conference several of the census experts said that gaining cooperation of all segments of a national population is critically important. They agreed that cooperation is dependent on a number of factors, including trust in the government that is collecting the information.
For the most part, the census officials said, information is still collected on paper as it has been for thousands of years. However, Herman Habermann of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs said there is growing interest in using the internet to gather population data. He said, "There are some countries which have done the majority of their census on the Internet. Will that happen 10 years from now? It all depends on the extent that countries are wired to the internet, it is hard to predict. But clearly one has to prepare for that kind of possibility of a wired society and to do more and more of the census through the Internet."
Mr. Habermann says Singapore leads the world in use of the Internet to collect census data. Regardless of how information is collected, the census directors agreed that technology has greatly improved the speed in which census data can be processed and disseminated.