THE Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) is pleading with Jamaicans not to shaft field workers who will this September begin collecting data in the 15th population and housing census, pledging that all data provided will remain "confidential".
"Our census takers will be going out into all communities islandwide. They will be seeking to speak to representatives of each household in Jamaica to collect information; so we don't have to speak to every single member of the household, but we need a responsible member of the household who is knowledgeable enough. For us, it is important that persons provide accurate and reliable information because the quality of what we put out is only as good as what we get," Leesha Delatie-Budair, deputy director general of Statin, told this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's St Andrew offices.
Pointing out that the census is the only source of information that allows statisticians to drill down to the community level, Delatie-Budair said, "Persons are encouraged to speak to us, give census takers the correct information about your situation; it is important that persons understand that the information you provide for the census is confidential."
The deputy director general noted further that employees are bound by law to protect the information collected.
"Under the Statistics Act, which pre-dates even the Data Protection Act, you are legally obligated to maintain the confidentiality of the responses collected in the census and for any data collection exercise by Statin. Every employee is bound by this provision and it is legally enforceable. So when the respondents and householder provide us with their information they can rest assured that that information will remain confidential and used only for statistical purposes," Delatie-Budair stated.
Additionally, the Statin deputy director general said information released by the agency is anonymised such that the identity of individuals cannot be ascertained.
"So we tend to put it out in aggregated format or, if we are sharing any data set, it is scrubbed of any identifying information," she assured.
Carol Coy, director general of Statin, in giving further assurances, said individuals prior to being employed as census takers have to take an oath of confidentiality and also sign the Official Secrets Act. She said this confidentiality requirement extends beyond the period individuals are employed to the institute.
"Under the Statistics Act they can be prosecuted for releasing confidential information. Over the years it's something we have never had an issue with. They know the repercussions," Coy said, noting that unlike the United States, Statin does not keep names and other personal data once the necessary details sought have been gleaned.
Additionally, at the agency level, Delatie-Budair said "there are measures implemented to limit exposure, so as a census taker you only have access to those records that you have collected, you can't access somebody else's information".
The exercise will begin after September 12 which has been labelled Census Day and will run until December, Statinofficials have said.