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First satellite census begins in East Timor

The first national census in East Timor has begun with several thousand workers visiting every household in the country, starting with the homes of the Prime Minister and President. It is believed that this is the first time in the world that statisticians are using the latest satellite technology to record the addresses of every household to make sure everyone in the country is counted.

The census includes specific questions about the whereabouts of householders in 1999 to get a clearer picture of how the pre-independence violence has affected the population rate. Each team carries with them a GPS device and they get an exact geographical reading of every household that they go to visit and where they ask questions.

Then comparison is made with maps from the Australian Defence Forces, which are accurate enough to show every structure in the country, and by matching up the geographical readings that the interviewers got with the maps it is determined whether every structure has been visited. The last official count of East Timor’s population was 14 years ago when it was still Indonesia’s 27th province.