CAPE TOWN, Planning for South Africa's next population census will begin in 2018/19, says Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Tabling the 2018 Budget vote for Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) in Parliament here Wednesday, she said conducting a population census is the biggest statistical survey any country and national statistics agency can undertake.

Planning for South Africa's next population census, which is scheduled for 2021, will commence in 2018/19. Census 2021 will be the first of its kind in South Africa to be conducted using electronic data collection methodology -- Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI). This will improve the quality of data collected and reduce the time-lag between data collection and the dissemination of results, she said.

Stats SA last conducted a census of the population in 2011. Conducted from 10 to 31 October 2011, the Census provided policy makers with crucial data about the size of the population, their geographical location and access to services, among other things.

Dlamini-Zuma said the government would support Stats SA to ensure that its work remains relevant, as statistics are the evidence on which policies are built and decisions are made.

Without good statistics, the policy development and decision-making process is blind: we cannot learn from our mistakes, and the public cannot hold us accountable. Statistics help us to understand and learn from the past, make sense of the present, and make inferences about the future, she said.

Stressing that the world now had an insatiable demand for data, statistics and information, she said: Such demand is accompanied by those who are willing to give up their personal information in exchange for getting more, thus fuelling the emergence of those who are willing to peddle data sometimes to the extent of loss of human dignity. Dignity should never be lost in the pursuit of empirical evidence.

Official statistics the world over are driven by the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and in Africa, by the African Charter on Statistics.