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Brazil Using Smartphones For Planning the Future 115

Posted by timothy
from the emergent-order-too-unreliable dept.
shafiur writes "Brazil has bought 150,000 LG smartphones and has embarked on the world's first fully digital national census. Can they succeed when the US recently failed to go digital? The Brazilians say that the digital census has several advantages over paper and pen methods. They say that the data is more accurate since GPS data will pinpoint the exact location of a household. The GPS data is cross-referenced with satellite images to ensure that responses are correctly geo-tagged. The recently begun census will underpin future publicy-making decisions."
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Brazil Using Smartphones For Planning the Future

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  • US did do GPS (Score:3, Informative)

    by ogre7299 (229737) <jjtobin@u[ ]h.edu ['mic' in gap]> on Sunday August 29, 2010 @03:55PM (#33410292)

    The US census did use GPS to pinpoint the exact locations of households. So Brazil can't do that much better....

  • Re:Side benefits! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Smallpond (221300) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @04:08PM (#33410356) Homepage Journal

    Also, it's a wonderful way for the government to show the poverty-stricken people (I realize that term doesn't apply to everyone) how "awesome" western culture is, and why they should start the "culturization" process we've been famed for in the past couple centuries!

    Care to bet how long before Brazil has to start cleaning up their pollution clouds?

    Hate to break this to you, but Brazil is "Western"

  • Re:Side benefits! (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhath (637240) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @04:27PM (#33410474)

    Obviously you've never been to South America. Brazil is a relatively wealthy country, but it's a country of Haves and Have Nots. Poverty in the US is nothing compared to poverty there.

    If the US had waited a few years until GPS enabled phones were available they might have had more success. The contract to supply the devices was started way back in 2002. Maybe next time...

  • Re:US did do GPS (Score:5, Informative)

    by arb phd slp (1144717) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:30PM (#33410800) Homepage Journal

    I was an enumerator in 2000 and one of our team did exactly that: made up the data at home. She was caught in two days when those forms got input into the computer and got kicked back out. Besides running an ANOVA check on the data to compare the variances between workers (I'm guessing that's how they caught her so quickly, but I didn't know what an ANOVA was at the time), they also had a follow-up team separate from ours that double-checked a random sample of our work.

  • Re:Cost of Labor (Score:5, Informative)

    by arb phd slp (1144717) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:39PM (#33410842) Homepage Journal

    They may be using modern technology to do the census, but they're using them in a primitive way. Modern statistical methods allow one to take a small sample and accurately determine the entire population and its makeup, at a tiny fraction of the cost.

    The Census Bureau has been arguing for sampling for several Censuses now. It's not like they aren't aware of modern statistical methods. It's a no-go. Congress won't approve it. It might not even be legal since the letter of the law clearly specifies an enumeration of every individual.
    Besides, the specific data from this Census gets opened in 2080 and will be a treasure trove for historians and genealogists.

  • Re:Not the First (Score:5, Informative)

    by grcumb (781340) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:06PM (#33410948) Homepage Journal

    Do you know if they have cell service on all of those islands with satellite backhauls? Or did they have to physically aggregate the data from the devices?

    For the most part, they logged the data to the devices, then brought them back to Port Vila (the capital) and transferred it to the central system.

    GPRS service is available throughout much of the country, but at terribly slow speeds and very high prices (about US$4.00/MB). It is being used to transfer monitoring data from the several active volcanoes we have, but to my knowledge, not for much else. Even donors find the service too expensive and slow to rely on.

    There are VSAT uplinks at various places around the islands, but the two telcos here rely mostly on microwave links to hop from one island to the next.

  • What Western World? (Score:5, Informative)

    by andersh (229403) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:15PM (#33410990)

    I hate to break it to you but there is no such agreement.

    The exact scope of the Western world is somewhat subjective in nature, depending on whether cultural, economic, spiritual or political criteria are employed.

    From a cultural point of view Brazil could very well belong to the West, however that is not what is being challenged here [in my opinion].

    The obvious cultural, economic and political differences [freedomhouse.org] between Brazil and what is known today as described by the term "the West" (Western Europe, North America, Israel, Australia and New Zealand) are clear. Corruption is endemic [transparency.org], the justice system incapable, crime rates sky high, racial discrimination heavy, wealth distribution skewed.

    It would perhaps be more pertinent to discuss this in light of Brazil's present and future economic situation.

    As of today Brazil is not a developed country according to the IMF [imf.org], OECD [oecd.org] or the UN.

    It is perhaps most clear when considering the unequal nature of Brazilian society [indexmundi.com] and Brazil's ranking according to the Human Development index [undp.org]. Brazil is ranked far below the average OECD country (Figure #1).

    I think the report speaks for itself: "By looking at some of the most fundamental aspects of people’s lives and opportunities the HDI provides a much more complete picture of a country's development than other indicators, such as GDP per capita."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:38PM (#33411110)

    AC because I'm a long-time lurker and rarely a poster. I was a 2010 Census Enumerator (door-knocker for the people who didn't send in their forms) and worked with people who had been responsible for locating the households originally. They all had handheld GPS devices and address lists, my crew leader wasn't technical enough to know/remember what imagery or databases they were using to start with but once they found a location they would press a button on the GPS device and locate it precisely on their maps. Generally this was done at the mailbox, where available, or where the driveway turned off from public roads. The maps we got as enumerators were all based on this field-collected GPS data (after a couple months to sort it, clean it, and generate area maps) and showed the local roads from the generic imagery--this wasn't always up to date, especially for new construction and new subdivisions, suggesting the road data was a couple years old at best, and then the specific GPS dots where the households had been located were the ones we used as location references to drive out to.

    I was doing work in the Pacific Northwest (small town near enough to Vancouver, WA) in both urban and rural areas and I don't think we'll be going digital for 2020. Even in a safe small-town / rural atmosphere there were enough skeevy folks and enough paranoid/outright distrustful/completely hostile people that I can't imagine going out there with a government badge, a government bag, and a government tablet would be anything more than a great way to get mugged or killed...especially in some of this fine country's city centers / regions.

    Paper and #2 pencils are cheap and more or less valueless. Sure, even attempting to intimidate us was a Federal felony, but odds are the guy shouting at you doesn't know that, and from the perspective of a city boy out traipsing around meth-lab-riddled farmlands, the guy with the gun is ALWAYS right until you can get back to your car and make a few phone calls. Sure, even if we see your back yard full of weed plants, we don't report it, we don't care, we're sworn to secrecy for life about any information we collect, but odds are the stoners won't care.

    Not to mention they'd have to be pretty damn rugged for field use. Rain, snow, freezing, mud, being dropped (you know it'll happen), batteries abused for charge cycles, thrown around, thrown into bags with sharp edges and rough fabric, you'd practically need a toughbook-type handheld GPS unit repurposed to run something off a custom ASIC for your forms, plus you've got issues with security for information transmission (Census information stays confidential & need-to-know for 70 years! The Commerce Bureau doesn't even tell the other branches of government this stuff unless they're appropriately classified and have a valid need to know.) and storage....it would be a gigantic nightmare and I don't see it happening any time soon, but that's just one enumerator's view.

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