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Online Census Explained

2006 Census Online Form: February 2006

27 February 2006

Online Census Explained

With only eight days remaining until Census Day on Tuesday, 7 March, Statistics New Zealand is reminding people who want to complete their census forms online that they will need both an ID and a security password for their household (PIN) to access the secure Internet site.

The paper census forms delivered by collectors show each household's Internet ID, and collectors provide an envelope containing a household PIN if anyone in the household wants to complete their forms online. The envelope also has instructions for how to log on.

People who have received forms but do not have a PIN are advised to call the toll-free helpline 0800 CENSUS (236 787) to order one.

The two log-on elements are part of the industry-standard security that Statistics NZ has put in place to ensure the privacy of information submitted online. "Statistics New Zealand is committed to providing a secure environment when you use the online option," said Government Statistician Brian Pink. "This means while you are completing the form, as well as when you send it, and later, while it is processed and stored."

While the system has been designed to work with low-speed computers and Internet connections, users need to have a computer with an up-to-date operating system and are advised to have current firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes.

Statistics NZ has successfully tested the usability of the forms internally and in public trials. "If you are familiar with making Internet transactions such as Internet banking, you should find it straight forward to complete your census forms online," Mr Pink said. As with the paper forms, the online forms are available in English or Mäori.

"If some members of your household want to complete their forms online while others don't, that's possible too,” Mr Pink said. “Each person has the choice of completing either a paper form or Internet form."

@ To ensure the security of information, it is not possible to save partly completed forms and return to them later. "If you are in the middle of completing a form online and are unable to finish it, you need to click 'Cancel'," explained Mr Pink. This closes the form and the information entered is not saved.

After completing a form online and clicking the button to submit it to Statistics NZ, answers cannot be changed. The form is sent to Statistics NZ immediately.

A communications system will notify collectors when people have completed their forms online, so they know how many paper forms to collect from each household. "If all people in a household complete their forms online, the collector does not need to return," said Mr Pink.

Statistics NZ has made projections and performed tests to simulate the expected level of use on Census Day. "It is possible that if everyone tries to go online around the same time on census night, then some will be unable to access the site and will have to try again later," said Mr Pink.

"We are confident that it will be successful if people have a little flexibility – as they sometimes have to do when accessing the more popular sites." The paper form also provides a back-up option if people experience technical difficulties or decide not to proceed with completing their census forms online.

If you are in New Zealand on census night but away from home, forms and PINs will be available at hotels, motels and other commercial accommodation to enable you to complete your census form online if you have access to an Internet connection. Statistics NZ advises people to check the security of the computer they will be using if the computer is not their own.

Canada and Australia will also have an online option in their censuses in May and August respectively, and the three national statistical agencies are sharing their experiences.

Brian Pink
Government Statistician


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