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ONS Recommends UK Census Moves Online

March 27 2014

Britain's National Statistician has recommended to the Board of the UK Statistics Authority that the country's ten-year census is retained, but moved online from its previously paper-based format.

Online future for the world's oldest Census?The most recent UK Census took place in 2011 and cost nearly £500m, leading the coalition Government to seek cheaper alternatives. Prior to the roll-out of the census, the UK Statistics Authority asked the National Statistician and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to review the future provision of population statistics in England and Wales, in order to inform the Government and parliament about the options for the next census. This led to the ONS announcing last September that it was considering an online option, or using existing administrative data combined with a 'rolling' annual survey conducted among 4% of the population.

Today, Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, has written to Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, to recommend the Government accept the move to a 'predominantly online census in 2021', supplemented by the further use of administrative and survey data. If the Government agrees with this recommendation, the majority of people in England and Wales will be required to fill out their census over the Internet.

Market Research Society CEO Jane Frost, who was part of the consultation group advising the Government on the retention of the 2021 census and its revised format, described the UK census as 'invaluable to businesses and services, providing an authoritative and accurate data source for reliable, evidence-based decisions by both the public and private sector'.

However, she cautioned that the move to an online format could preclude those without access to technology. 'While the shift to online will make it easier for most people to fill out the census, there is a risk of alienating households that don't have Internet access and older people who might be less familiar with technology. The quality and reliability of the data submitted will also need to be safeguarded against input errors such as typing inaccuracies or not filling out all forms online,' Frost added.

Web site: www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk .

All articles 2006-19 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas.

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