In 2022, Romania embarked on an extensive Population and Housing Census. This big event was actually scheduled to happen in 2021, but, like many plans during that time, due to the global COVID-19 health crisis it got rescheduled for the next year. This directive was issued by the Central Commission for the Population and Housing Census under Decision no. 1 of November 4. With the census data collected in a tabular format, a brilliant collaboration opportunity for census data visualization emerged.

The experts at the geo-spatial.org Association and the Essensys Software Company teamed up to turn these statistics into a visual narrative by mapping them. This way the very valuable information became more accessible and highly usable.

Romania’s Rich Census History

Romania’s history with population censuses dates back to the period of 1859-1860, marking the beginning of a comprehensive demographic documentation process. Romania completed 9 censuses until 1990 and 3 after. The latest one was in 2022 and it set an important precedent by introducing the option for self-enumeration through an online application. This was a significant leap towards modernizing the census process, making it more accessible and efficient for its citizens.

From Data to Discovery with the Geospatial Approach

In this project, about 60 different sets of data were downloaded from the official census website. These data sets, or indicators, were then carefully processed and transformed into web map services (WEBGIS) for easier visualization and analysis.

The process involved linking numeric and textual data (like population figures) to the specific shapes and boundaries of Romania’s counties and local administrative units. This linking was based on matching the names in the data sets with those of the geographical areas making it a great example of census data visualization in action. The geographical shapes and names were sourced from a trusted geo-portal online.

However, a significant challenge was encountered: there were inconsistencies in the use of diacritics (special characters used in Romanian names) within the data sets. Some names included these characters, while others did not, and there were instances of misspellings. This discrepancy made it challenging to ensure accurate association between the data and the geographical areas they represent.

Geospacial table

Technologies Used to Bring the Idea to Reality

To bring this project to life, a suite of powerful tools was used, each chosen for its specific capabilities to help with the census data visualization:

Excel: This is go-to for processing and modeling data in tables. In this project, it was very helpful in offering a clear view of the information before diving deeper.

Python: This is the best choice for advanced processing of tabular data.

PostgreSQL/ PostGIS : This is a great storage solution especially for a census data visualization project, adept at handling both straightforward tabular data and the more complex geospatial information.

GeoServer: This tool was essential for turning the data into web map services (WEBGIS), making it possible to share with the world the census data visualization as maps.

MapStore: To make sure that anyone can easily explore the geospatial data, MapStore was used, a user-friendly application designed for visualizing this type of data.

The Benefits of Geospatial Census Data Visualization

Exploring geospatial census data is more than just understanding numbers and charts. It’s about visualizing data on a map, making it interactive and actionable. This integration helps urban planners, policymakers, and even the general public. It’s changing the way we look at and understand demographics, urban development, and community planning by simplifying complexities. Here’s a detailed look at how this approach is transforming our perspective and why census data visualization is useful.

Localization of demographic data

Imagine being able to see where different age groups, genders, or ethnic communities live across the country, all on a map. This is what geospatial census data does. It allows associating demographic data (such as age, gender, ethnicity, etc.) with specific location. This helps experts get a clear picture of who lives where, making it easier to spot patterns and trends across various regions.

Urban planning and territorial development

With census data laid out on a map, city planners have a goldmine of information to guide them. They can make smarter choices about where to build new schools, how to improve housing, or where to boost public services, ensuring everything’s right where it’s needed most.

Monitoring demographic changes

Geospatial data turns the slow dance of demographic change into something we can actually see. This means understanding better how populations shift over time, what drives these changes, and how they affect local communities.

Identifying socio-economic disparities

By analyzing geospatial census data, it’s possible to uncover and address disparities between different areas. Whether it’s access to education, healthcare, or job opportunities, mapping these data points can highlight where there are inequalities and prompt actions to level the playing field.

Supporting policymaking

When you can visualize the specific needs and wants of communities, crafting successful policies becomes much easier. Geospatial data offers a bird’s-eye view of community preferences, helping policymakers tailor their strategies to real-world needs.

Communication and public awareness

Turning census data into maps and visual stories does wonders for public engagement. It turns complex datasets into something everyone can understand and connect with, increasing awareness and participation in community and development projects.

Explore the Maps Created for the Census Data Visualization and Discover the Insights

Around 60 key indicators have been mapped, offering a panoramic view of the findings in a way that’s both intuitive and insightful. These maps are not just visual representations, they’re gateways to understanding complex data through the lens of geography.

Here are the portals to the interactive maps where the numbers take on new life:

2021 Census Insights Map
General Overview Map
Interactive Demographic Dashboards

Each link leads to a unique exploration of Romania’s demographic landscape, offering a rich, layered understanding of the data collected.

Author

Florin Iosub is Team Lead and GIS Solutions Architect at Essensys Software, member of geo-spatial.org board, the Romanian Local Chapter of OSGeo and OSGeo charter member. With over 15 years of professional experience in the GIS field gained as a result of participating in the implementation of numerous projects, he is very well acquainted with the best practice and state-of-the-art of GIS technologies in all related fields. At the same time, he is very determined in spreading the FOSS4G values and principles and involved in various volunteering initiatives.