All you need to know about the forthcoming census

KNBS director general Zachary Mwangi addresses concerns around confidentiality, counting of persons away from home and those whose households miss out on the count

In Summary

• Counting of people will be done from the night of August 24 up to 31

• The aim is to determine population, living conditions and ethnic composition, and inform resource allocation

The 2009 census report that was launched at the KICC in Nairobi.
The 2009 census report that was launched at the KICC in Nairobi.
Image: FILE

For the first time, Kenya will leverage newer technology to ensure the census is conducted as per expected global standards.

The census is carried out every 10 years to primarily determine population, which guides planners on resource allocation. Kenya's population was reported as 38.6 million during the 2009 census, compared to 28.7 million inhabitants in 1999, 21.4 million in 1989, and 15.3 million in 1979.

Speaking at a media briefing last month, KNBS director general Zachary Mwangi said, “The KNBS is working round the clock to ensure preparations for the census are completed within the agreed timelines and meet the internationally recognised thresholds.”


About 170,000 enumerators and supervisors have been recruited to work in this year’s Housing and Population Census.

The Star caught up with Zachary Mwangi to shed light on what Kenyans should expect.

What is a population census?


A census is the process of counting all the people in a country. The process of capturing census information is referred to as enumeration. Census is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing and publishing demographic, social and/or economic data, pertaining, at a specified time, to all persons in a country or a well-defined part of a country. 

How will the census data be captured?

For the first time, all the data required for the census will be captured electronically through a tablet computer. The questions are being loaded on to the gadget and the whole enumeration process will, therefore, be paperless. This guarantees that the data will be captured faster than has been the case during previous censuses. It also ensures that the data will be more secure and collected faster.



Is there confidentiality of the census data?


Yes. The census is strictly confidential. All information collected is strictly for use by census officials. The bureau guarantees the protection of personal details collected in the census. All census officials will swear an “Oath of Secrecy” as embodied in the Statistics Act 2006. The oath forbids census officials from divulging the information collected to unauthorised persons. The bureau has adhered to international guidelines, which advocate the values of professionalism, transparency, accountability and integrity required of statistical systems in maintaining credibility and public confidence.



What will show that a household has been enumerated?

After enumeration, the officials will write a number on the door or any visible place on the structure to indicate that counting has been conducted in the household. Please do not erase the number.


How is the census data used for planning?

The census is the primary source of reliable and detailed data on the size, distribution and composition of the population in the country at a specified time. The information collected during census when analysed gives an accurate picture of how many people are living in the country/county at every administrative level, and their living conditions, as well as access to basic services. This will inform planners on resource allocation.


At what time of the day will the census officer call at the household?

Counting of people will start on the night of 24th August 2019 and continue up to the 31st August 2019, when counting is scheduled to end. People will be counted with reference to where they spent the night of 24th August. This is known as the Reference Night.


How long will it take to complete an interview for a household?

It is expected that enumerators will spend about 30 minutes in each house, though this may be shorter or longer, depending on the size of the household.


What happens if one is not counted on the night of 24th August 2019?

It may not be possible to reach everyone everywhere on the night of 24th August 2019. The census teams will proceed with enumeration throughout the week, but all information will refer to the night of 24th August — the census Reference Night. Those not enumerated by 31st August 2019 should report to the local administrative office. However, care must be taken to ensure that you have indeed not been enumerated. It is not uncommon for members who are momentarily away from their households to be enumerated in absentia.


Will Kenyans in the diaspora be counted?

No. Kenyans in the diaspora will not be counted. However, household members will be asked some questions about members of their households who migrated to other countries in the last 15 years.


When will the results be released?

It is expected that preliminary results will be released three months after the end of the exercise. The basic reports of the census are expected to be released within six months, while the detailed analytical reports will be released within one year.


Will data on ethnic composition be collected?

Yes, information on tribe or ethnicity will be collected due to its statistical and cultural value. Ethnic origin data paint a picture of Kenya’s cultural diversity and provide insight into the changing in-migration patterns and increasing diversity. Governments, community groups, ethnic and cultural organisations, school boards, hospitals and researchers use ethnicity data to assess the socio-economic characteristics of people of differing backgrounds.

All previous censuses conducted in Kenya have collected data on ethnicity, reflecting a long-standing and continuing widespread demand for information about ethno-cultural characteristics of the Kenyan population.


What safeguards against data manipulation have been put in place?

Several quality assurance measures are in place to ensure complete and accurate information is collected. Experts and key stakeholders from various institutions will train the field personnel and oversee the actual enumeration. Qualified and well-trained ICT and content supervisor will control quality at the field level, while census committees will oversee the exercise nationally. Additionally, an independent team of experts in census-taking is expected to monitor the exercise nationally.


What are the security arrangements?

The security agencies are fully involved and are part of the national and county census committees. Enumerators will have official identity cards and reflector jackets for ease of identification. Also, they have been recruited from where they live. Therefore, they are known by the locals. Enumerators will also be accompanied by village elders, leaders of residence associations or assistant chiefs, who are well known by the heads of households.


Whom do I contact in case my household is not covered?

In case your household will not have been contacted by 31 August, a toll-free number will be provided for you to contact KNBS to send an enumerator to enumerate your household.


If I have visitors on the night of the 24th/25th August, should they be counted as part of my household?

Anyone who will be present in your household on the night of 24th/25th August 2019 will be counted together with your household. Everyone will be counted depending on where they will be on the night of 24th/25th August 2019. Those who will be on duty working, such as nurses on that night, will be counted with the household they will return to the following day after work.