Computers Boost Cameroon Civil Service Census

DOUALA, CAMEROON (08/16/2000) - Editor's Note: Gideon F. For-Mukwai has been in Cameroon for more than two weeks reporting on changes occurring there as a result of telecommunications liberalization and increased use of information technology. This story and "Telecom Liberalization Spurs Growth in Cameroon," "Spectrum Management Tops List of Concerns" and "Cameroon Telecom Regulators Face Challenges" offer a snapshot of what is happening in the west African nation.

Computers appear to be revolutionizing Cameroon's Civil Service Census, with quick results coming in for the first time ever. In the last decade, several attempts to take a Civil Service Census have yielded insignificant results because manual procedures were susceptible to fraud and distortion.

The current ongoing census, however, relies on computer systems to cut down time and reduce costs, said Jean Claude Le Gay, director of Bureau de Conseil en Strategie et Technique d'Organisation (BCST), the French company handling the work. BCST has a staff of more than 200, including workers out in the field and those based at particular locations, using desktops and laptops for data entry.

Data collected from census centers in the hinterlands and diplomatic outposts located beyond Cameroon's borders are fed into a fixed database center in Yaounde, Cameroon. Fixed data analysis centers also operate from provincial headquarters within Cameroon.

Collection and analysis of data have exceeded daily targets, Le Gay said. The goal had been to interview 80 civil servants daily, but BCST employees interview 120 civil servants per day. Both the goal and the actual number of those interviewed beat the average of 38 daily interviews achieved when manual methods were in use.

More than 17,000 "ghost" workers are likely to be identified in Youande alone using the new computerized counting method, according to a source close to the census. Those workers had not been counted in past census attempts.

Government officials and IT observers think that accurate results may soon be available, enabling Cameroon to stop paying fraudulent workers and improve its position when it comes to international fund donations.

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