Do you know how many of us there are in the Czech Republic? We’ll have to wait a while longer for an accurate answer. However, one of the largest census events in the history of our country proved that when it comes to involvement in public projects, we’re not all that bad. Naturally, though, there were also people whose questions should have been directed at a psychiatrist rather than at a state office.
Asking (out) via phone call
When the Census was underway, the Czech Statistical Office was being bombarded with thousands of comments every day. Some of them were, nicely put, somewhat strange. One of the craziest things that happened was a marriage proposal to a helpful phone operator - to make things even better, a father tried to make the arrangements on behalf of his son!
Aside from that, people were also asking how to include an arrested Czech who was serving his sentence in a foreign prison in the census. Or how to go about nuns living in a monastery. Another oddity was the question of whether one could register a cat could be registered as a household member rather than a wife, because a domestic animal causes much fewer fights. One of the participants in the survey filled in the address of a neighbour in his questionnaire by mistake and called the office, asking whether this would cause a problem for the neighbour.
"We advised parents on whether and how to register their adult children, helped decide how many forms people living in two-generation houses should fill in. We helped a lot of people fill in the part dedicated to employment and we gave advice to those who were running around the house trying to get the exact measurements on each room,"
Šárka Jelínková, head coach of the Conectart Census project, said in this context.
Questions with a question mark
Fortunately, most of the questions and other comments weren’t like that. Typically, people were asking how to register several economically independent households that lived together. Or how to register household members currently working abroad. The questions also often concerned the confirmation of form submission or whether it was possible to correct wrongly input data in an already submitted form. Many people needed advice on how to fill in commute to work or school during the pandemic. Others asked for information on where to find the nearest census contact point and where to get or submit the completed census form.
Ask the chatbot
In addition to telephone inquiries, the office received tens of thousands of e-mails from the public, requesting a response. The chatbot answered more than 400,000 questions every day. In a way, it was a revolutionary solution; the Czech Statistical Office was among the first such institutions worldwide to use a chatbot in its census. Chatbot is basically a program which, thanks to pre-setting answers to specific topics, replaces a telephone operator in communication.
The chatbot helped, for example, with questions such as how to correctly register children and students, how to determine the area of an apartment, whether it is possible to fill in data on behalf of another person or register a close person who lives abroad. People were also asking the chatbot about the option of registering foreigners, obtaining confirmation of form submission or what to do if, for example, one is unable to register due to invalid documents.
However, the majority preferred a telephone conversation with the operators, as also confirmed by Jolana Voldánová, spokeswoman for the Census 2021.
"Despite the extensive use of several automated answering tools, there were still many people who wanted to address their questions directly with the Contact Center staff,"
she stated. In total, the centre handled over 263,000 calls.
Nothing works the first time around
The great interest of the public may have been the reason why people sometimes couldn’t get through to the operators the first time around.
"I have had to try several times. But I was patient, and in the end, it worked out. I needed to ask which permanent residence I was to fill in, as I was in the process of moving at the time,"
says 31-year-old Petr from Prague.
The census was underway for a total of 46 days. It began on March 27 and ended on May 11. During this period, people submitted 4,217,261 electronic and 683,000 paper census forms. However, paper forms kept coming even after the deadline - in total, there will probably be more than 800,000 of them. Almost two-thirds of us used a computer and 36 percent a mobile phone or tablet. The Census website was visited by over 5 million online users.
However, if you want to know exactly how many of us are there in the Czech Republic, you might have to wait a while.
"We will inform the public about how far along we are in the processing of the data, as well as share information and interesting facts that will result from our work. But we definitely won’t publish results just yet. These will only be available in their complete form at the turn of this and next year,"
said Marek Rojíček, Chairman of the Czech Statistical Office.
The next census should be held in another 10 years. It will be interesting to see to what extent it will be different from this one. The number of questions is likely to narrow. Although it may not be exactly by half compared to the census held in 2011. However, we can already say with certainty that the proportion of those who will use the option to register online will be much higher than it was during this spring.