Studies in Methods (Ser. F)

2412-0332 (online)
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Studies in Methods (Series F) is the title of a book series produced by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), which is part of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). This series includes various titles that deal with the development and compiling of various statistical indicators, as well as best practices for the conducting of surveys and censuses.
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Handbook on Geospatial Infrastructure in Support of Census Activities

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18 Dec 2013
9789210557542 (PDF)

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The newly revised and renamed Handbook reflects the recommendations of the expert group meetings and regional workshops on geographic information systems (GIS) and census-mapping. It covers both managerial and operational needs in considerable detail. The Handbook addresses organizational and institutional issues that concern statistical agency heads and other managers; and it explicitly addresses technical and practical issues that concern census cartographers and takers. It also contains some examples of country practices in the application of GIS, global positioning systems (GPS) and digital mapping used in censuses contributed by some of these experts.
Also available in Russian, Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish
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  • Preface
    The United Nations published the Handbook on Geographic Information Systems and Digital Mapping for use during the 2000 round of population and housing censuses. The 2000 Handbook has provided useful guidance in the field of census cartography. It needs updating and reviewing, however, to take into account recent developments in geospatial technologies and their applications for statistical exercises, in particular for population and housing censuses.
  • Introduction
    The Handbook on Geospatial Infrastructure in Support of Census Activities seeks to recognize and build on the achievements of its predecessor, the Handbook on Geographic Information Systems and Digital Mapping, published in 2000.
  • Managerial considerations for heads of national statistical offices and other decision makers
    This chapter is intended for managers of national statistical organizations (NSOs), census directors and geographic section heads. It covers mainly institutional issues (i.e., the non-GIS technical content), focusing on various considerations associated with the use of geospatial technologies. NSOs can produce geo-referenced data with a higher degree of accuracy in less time, but only if activities are carefully planned. Included are examples of country experiences illustrating the utility of geospatial technologies for census work.
  • Constructing an EA-Level database for the census
    As noted in chapter II, using geospatial technology to create better data is in some ways an organizational issue, involving goal-setting and harnessing the right human resource skills. Reorganizing that the NSO around a geographic information core means embracing the relationship between a country’s geography and the various sets of information that the NSO uses and produces. The relationship between geography and databases occurs through the mechanism of coding. The first step is to link the management material described in chapter II to technical content, showing how the geographic census database becomes the focus of activities where forms of census information are stored and accessed.
  • Integrating fieldwork using GPS and remotely-Sensed data
    This chapter continues the step-by-step process of constructing the EA-level geographic database that was introduced in chapter III. Here we recognize the value of new tools and data sources made possible by satellite technology — namely global positioning systems and remote sensing (including aerial photography) — by addressing the new tools and data sources directly.
  • Use of geographic databases (maps) during the census
    Maps are used for all kinds of planning purposes immediately before and during a census. Activities that use maps include the allocation of enumerators to territory; the identification of rugged or inaccessible areas; managing logistics for the transportation of field staff and supplies; locating hard-to-enumerate populations and collective living quarters; delineating administrative boundaries at multiple levels; monitoring census progress; and creating locator maps.
  • Geographic databases for dissemination of census results, products and services
    Chapter V discussed the use of geospatial infrastructure to support census enumeration. Chapter VI deals with geographic tasks that the NSO will carry out after the enumeration, and with the dissemination and use of geographically referenced census information. At this point in the process, the results from the enumeration should be in. All through the present Handbook we have stressed that all geographic plans must align with the overall census plan. A second key to an NSO’s investment in a geographic database is its ability to be used for all phases of the census process. Once the enumeration is complete, results can be used to refine the database further. Using the geographic database to create products to inform and educate the public will raise issues about aggregation and scale that will require input from those outside the NSO.
  • Bibliography and references
  • Geographic information systems
    A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based tool for the input, storage, management, retrieval, update, analysis and output of information. The information in a GIS relates to the characteristics of geographic locations or areas. In other words, a GIS allows us to answer questions about where things are or about what is located at a given location.
  • Coordinate systems and map projections
    The review of GIS concepts in annex I has highlighted the benefits of spatial data integration. By organizing different types of geographic information as data layers, measurements, queries, modelling and other types of analysis can be performed that makes use of data from many different subject areas. Thus, census data can be analysed in combination with land-use or agro-ecological data, or socioeconomic survey information can be linked to geographically referenced data on disease risk. This ability of linking data from numerous sources is made possible by the vertical integration of different data layers. That simply means that all geographic data sets are referenced using the same coordinate system, so that different data layers align correctly when overlaid on top of each other.
  • Data modelling
    This annex reviews geographic data-modelling issues and an example of the content of a detailed data dictionary that may be used by a census office to document the geographic databases that are produced for census purposes. A simpler data dictionary to accompany geographic census products disseminated to the public is continued in annex IV.
  • Example of a data dictionary for distribution
    This is a sample data dictionary for the distribution of a census geographic database of localities for the hypothetical country of Poplandia. The term data dictionary is sometimes used interchangeably with the term metadata, although in practice the two are different. Data dictionaries predate metadata, and usually the term “data dictionary” refers to the information that is distributed with data that an agency disseminates. ISO metadata standards provide specific guidelines. Each country can use “profiling” to adapt a common metadata format for its own national uses. The example below is meant for illustration only. The actual content of the data dictionary should be carefully designed by the national census office to consider specific issues relevant to the country.
  • Thematic map design
    The present annex presents a brief overview of design considerations for making thematic maps. This overview cannot cover all the issues surrounding information content of maps, however; if necessary, a textbook should be consulted. Cartographers distinguish between several types of maps. General purpose maps serve as a reference frame for orientation. They show mostly real geographic features that can be observed on the ground. These features are either natural—rivers, mountains, coastlines—or man-made, such as roads or settlements. Reference maps also show features that are not visible on the ground. The best example are political boundaries and the reference grid showing latitudes and longitudes. Topographic maps fall into this category of general-purpose or reference maps. They play an important role in the mapping of enumeration areas as they provide information about features that an enumerator uses for orientation in the assigned work area.
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