The Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Vivek Joshi, will ask the UIDAI to verify biometric data of individuals to include it in the National Population Register (NPR) programme instead of collecting the details again, the Economic Times reported. Citing a senior home ministry source, the report said that this move will put a stop to the debate on which agency has dominance collection of biometric data.

This development comes at a time when the government has announced that it is testing collecting data for Census 2021 digitally. In a notification dated June 12, 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs said, “Pre-test of Census 2021 would be extremely challenging, as the digital mode of data collection would be tested in the field for the first time. The digital mode of data collection, if adopted in Census 2021[,] will result in the faster publication of Census data, helping policy formulation and research.”

Digital mode of data collection for Census 2021

In June 2018, the government had notified that, “The schedules and other connected papers [with the Census] shall be disposed of totally or in part by the Director of Census Operations, after creating electronic record of such documents, in accordance with the general or special directions as may be given by the Census Commissioner in this behalf”. During the Data Users’ Conference held on April 9, 2019, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba had cautioned that while using technology for data collection in Census 2021, data confidentiality should be maintained.

Census 2021 will be carried out in three phases, ThePrint reported. The house enumeration will take place from April to September 2020, the population enumeration will happen between February 9 and 28, 2021, and then a revision round will be carried out from March 1-5, 2021.

According to an ET report, in this Census, the data can be collected by enumerators on their phone, registered with the census authorities, via an application. However, they will also have the option to record the information offline and then make data entries later. The sync feature of the application will allow the census authorities to gain faster access to data in digital format and reduce time taken to release data on various parameters.

Citing an official from Home Ministry, The Print reported on August 2 that the central government is developing an app which the enumerators will have to download on their personal devices. The data being collected will have to be entered on the app. The app will be reportedly tested on a sample of 50 lakh residents in the next two months.

The official explained that the app will also work offline and will be password protected. The app will also allow data collection in 18 languages.

The 2021 census will ask for information from households about smartphones, DTH/cable TV connections, internet access, number of members of households who have bank accounts and ownership of a house, the ET report continued. Also, the data to be collected will be codified for easier reading and collation.