Massive software problems: Not everything is going smoothly with the 2022 census

The current census started in May.

Massive software problems: Not everything is going smoothly with the 2022 census

The current census started in May. But there are complications with the inventory for Germany: The municipalities warn of problems with the software. However, the Federal Ministry of the Interior does not see the schedule in jeopardy.

There are considerable concerns in the cities and districts as to whether the current 2022 census can be successfully completed. The Federal Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for nationwide data collection, admitted software problems. A spokeswoman said that the successful completion of the census is not in danger. "We are currently receiving a large number of problem reports from various federal states from the local survey offices for the implementation of the 2022 census," says a letter that the German Association of Cities and Districts sent to Markus Richter, the State Secretary for the Interior responsible for digitization.

The nationwide collection of data on the population, living space, rents, heating, education and employment began in May and is expected to last three months. The main problem is the software specially developed for the census, which "has not been adequately and reliably tested," despite corresponding offers from the municipalities, according to the letter. The software now shows "considerable performance problems" in practical use. The difficulties with the program led to delays in data collection. In addition, there are program breaks in the data collection by the survey agencies.

Due to these massive impairments, "a chronological order and completion of the 2022 census will be called into question", the central municipal associations fear. In the letter, you also express concern "that the results of the census will also be affected and distorted as a result". The 2022 census is not a classic census like the one last held in Germany in 1987. Rather, as was the case with the 2011 census, data that is already available in the administration, for example at the residents' registration office, is supplemented by the collection of current information.

Around 100,000 interviewers interview randomly selected people at their place of residence. A second survey relates to the subject of housing and is carried out entirely in writing. There is an obligation to provide information for the citizens. The publication of all statistics generated from this for the federal and state governments is planned for November 2023. The data is relevant for the municipalities, among other things, because the number of inhabitants plays a role in the distribution of funds from municipal financial equalization. The newly gained information should also help with planning, for example when it comes to whether additional daycare centers may have to be built in a region.

"In individual functionalities in the software for survey support, there were or are selective restrictions," admitted the spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior. However, these restrictions have either already been resolved or will be "remedied by new software releases" in the coming weeks. Until then, existing restrictions would be offset by "technical bypasses". The Ministry of the Interior does not see the schedule for the census in jeopardy.

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