Open data | Guernsey's award winning e-census


Guernsey’s government led the way in electronic innovation in 2015, becoming the first jurisdiction in Europe to adopt an e-census. As a result, comprehensive Guernsey population statistics are available more frequently than in other jurisdictions and at half the cost of a traditional census. This provides essential, up to date information to measure and inform policy changes and to provide opportunity for social innovation based on provision of carefully selected open data.


The project won the highly regarded UK wide 'NextGen 2015 Digital Challenge Award' in the Open Data category. The Awards celebrate innovation, success and leadership in the UK’s digitally transformed economy. The awards are the UK’s prime showcase - the Oscars - for the best in next generation digital innovation.

One of the biggest challenges during the early stages of the project was convincing stakeholders that a digital alternative was viable and that data would be secure, as a census had not been approached that way anywhere else. It was not always easy to explain how the technology would 'work' in that sense as it could not physically be seen.



As the project progressed, confidence grew. The challenges were worth overcoming as we now have access to more frequent and up-to-date demographic data than any other jurisdiction and it costs less than a traditional census too.

Helen Walton
Rolling Electronic Census Project Manager, States of Guernsey


The first annual electronic census report was published on 31 March 2015. It provides information on the population and includes a detailed snapshot of the demographics, spatial distribution and housing situation on the population.


Census reports were historically produced every 5 or 10 years but in future the information will be published annually. In addition, carefully selected data can be opened up to provide ‘at the moment’ information for use to inform decisions and new innovations.


The rolling electronic census project involved developing an IT system to collate, match and process information from 10 separate States of Guernsey sources. It took 18 months to develop the system.


The first collection of information published in March 2015 includes a breakdown of population by parish, school catchment and voting district along with a host of other information in addition to regular updates to population trends. It also contains basic demographic historical trends and projections. The e-census system will process data through a variety of government departments, including health and education, in order to give information on the local population.


Digimap provided the system software. It has algorithms for dealing with any inconsistencies between data sources, although this sometimes needs human intervention. The company is working to ensure the system will conduct 98% of processes automatically.


The e-census also brings together information which people have provided to government departments, such as address updates and place of birth, removing the need for the information to be provided again via the traditional census method. Data sharing is enabled by the Electronic Census Ordinance which was enacted in 2013 and also strictly controls who can access the information and the purposes for which it can be used. All the data is securely held in electronic form and only census officers have access to the IT system.


Using an electronic means of collating data means that there is an audit trail of access to the information. Additionally, because the IT systems anonymises the data before it is made available for analysis, Census officers have less contact with personal details than if they were handling traditional census forms.



The video below is from the 2016 Guernsey Awards for achievement where the States of Guernsey E-Census Project was shortlisted for the The BWCI Innovation Award.


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