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Jakarta Post

Online census begins despite glitches

  • A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil and Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Medan   /   Wed, February 19, 2020   /   04:05 pm
Online census begins despite glitches Central Statistics Agency (BPS) staff at the 2020 census call center room in Jakarta, February 17, 2020. The population census that occurs every 10 years aims to update the country’s demographic data. This is crucial for policy interventions, and will combine door-to-door interviews and data gathering with online data submissions, marking the first time Indonesia has used such a method. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

The 2020 population census by Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has started. The online phase, which is expected to ease access for public participation across the country, has begun, but glitches have plagued the launch.

Less than a week after the online census started, some residents, such as those in North Sumatra where authorities aim to have 20 percent of North Sumatra residents, or 3 million people, taking part in the online census, encountered slow webpage loading when people attempted to fill in the online form.

Mukhamad Mukhanit from BPS’ North Sumatra office said it was because the servers unexpectedly became overloaded when multiple people accessed the website at the same time.

"We received many complaints, including slow webpage load times and downed connections. We have forwarded these concerns [to the BPS central office]," he said on Sunday.

Unlike past censuses, the 2020 census uses both door-to-door interviews and an online platform, the first ever the decennial census has gone digital since its inception in 1961.

The online census is available from Feb. 15 to March 31 via sensus.bps.go.id. Citizens need their family card (KK) and ID card (NIK) numbers to complete the online registration process. The online census will be followed by a door-to-door census and phone interviews in July for those who do not or cannot access the online census.

The online questionnaire has a total of 22 questions, ranging from the registrant's name, date of birth, place of birth, religion, education level and occupation. The online census also asks residents for their current address as well as the address on their ID card, even if they currently reside and work elsewhere.

“It’s not that past censuses were inaccurate, only that they have different definitions [of residencies],” said BPS spokeswoman Endang Retno Sri Subiya Andani.

This year is also the first such census to use existing civil registration data from the Home Ministry.

The census, Endang said, would also be used to update the civil registration data. Citizens who are found to have no civil documents during field interviews will be referred to the Home Ministry for registration.

Amelia Rizky, a 20-year-old college student in West Jakarta has filled in the online census for her family, including her mother and father, who have just moved from their first house in Tangerang, Banten — which is also their current ID card address — to a newly purchased second house in West Jakarta. The family opted for the online census as they did not want to change their ID card addresses.

“With only one login ID we can complete [the census] for the whole family, so we don’t have to repeat it again. It also caters to the needs of people with current addresses different from their ID card addresses, like us,” Amelia said.

Security was the only concern for Amelia when entering her family’s information on the online form.

“Nowadays, data theft is a major concern, and here [on the online census], we are talking about birth certificates, employment and other sensitive data,” she said. “But what can we do, it’s an [important] census.”

The online census comes amid the absence of data protection laws in Indonesia.

The BPS has been working with the National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN) and Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), among other institutions, to ensure data security and privacy during the online registration process.

Wahyudi Djafar, a researcher at the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), said that although the online census had received a pass from the BSSN, it does not mean that BPS, as the data holder, does not need to take additional precautions to protect the data.

“The system may be safe, but there is still a possibility [of a data breach],” Wahyudi said.

The BPS has set a budget of Rp 4 trillion (US$ 292.9 million) for the 2020 census, compared to the reported Rp 3.3 trillion in 2010.

Endang said the ongoing online census was predicted to help reduce the number of field workers for the coming door-to-door interview. BPS is planning to hire around 390,000 volunteers starting in early April to help with the 2020 census fieldwork in July.

“Our initial target is to have 23 percent of the census carried out online nationwide. If we can reach more than that, it would even reduce the cost of the census.”

The 2020 census is expected to help Indonesia keep track of its demographic dividend, that the country is expected to benefit from with its huge working-age population — projected to reach 70 percent of the total population by 2030.

A 2015 intercensal survey projected that Indonesia would have a population of around 266.9 million in 2019, which may leap to 319 million by 2045.

University of Indonesia (UI) Demographic Institute associate director I Dewa Gede Karma Wisana said the 2020 census was a step to improve demographic analysis because it now integrated and compared data from the census with existing registration data.

“With that data integration, we can expect better policy interventions from the central government and regional administrations,” he said, adding that census data was usually used for long or medium-term development plans while the registration data was used for immediate policy making.