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About a month ago we opened the mail box to find an envelope as thick as a brick containing il censimento generale 2011 (the 2011 national census). This is the fifteenth national census, the first taking place in 1861, the year of Italy’s unification. Since then it has been repeated every 10 years, with the exception of 1941 due to the Second World War.
This year’s census digs deeply (31 pages deep!) into our family history, education, employment, and the type of accommodation we live in. How deeply? Well they want to know things such as: Where was your father born? What is your mother’s maiden name? What sort of heating system do you have? How is your hot water heated? How many bathrooms do you have? Do you have a bath tub or a shower? (hmmm, so much for privacy!)
They also want to know how long it took to me to get to work last Wednesday, how I travelled to work, and how many different means of public transports I had to use (answers: 0, N/A, 0). To my husband, who is used to the British census which is a simple double sided A4 form, this came as a bit of a shock, but to most Italians it’s just routine, people always want to know each other’s fatti propri private business, don’t they? The main difference with this year’s census is that for the first time ever the form is available online.
Yesterday, 9th of October, was the official opening of the Census website. According to ISTAT, the Institute for Statistics, the opening of the website was “un grande successo di adesioni alla compilazione del questionario via internet, nelle prime ore ci sono state punte di 500.000 accessi in contemporanea al sito” – "A very successful participation in the completion of the questionnaire via the Internet, in the early hours, there were peaks of 500,000 simultaneous accesses to the site". Telecom, the telephone and Internet company that provides the site says: “Il grande afflusso di utenti ha creato di conseguenza rallentamenti e difficoltà di accesso. Telecom è già al lavoro per aumentare la potenza del sistema installato” – “The great influx of users has slowed things down and caused difficulties in accessing the site. Telecom is already working on increasing the power of the system”.
However, to give you an insight into the reality of what users are dealing with here is an account given by one of the 500,000 people that tried to fill in the online form yesterday:
“Mi sembra tutto facile. Compilo la prima schermata, si apre la seconda, ma mentre scrivo voglio controllare una cosa che ho scritto e allora clicco indietro. Non l’avessi mai fatto, la schermata non torna indietro, la pagina è «scaduta» dice il mio schermo. Allora ricomincio, ma questa volta non si entra, la clessidra diventa permanente” – “Everything seems easy. I fill in the first page, the second one opens, but while I’m writing I want to check something I wrote and so I click the back button. I shouldn’t have done it, the screen doesn’t go back, my screen informs me that the page is ‘timed out’. So I restart, but this time I can’t get in, the little hour glass is stuck”…
…“mezz’ora dopo ci riesco. Ricomincio la compilazione on line, a un certo punto devo tornare indietro di nuovo perché ho un dubbio: è normale, mica sto sulla carta che basta un’occhiata al foglio di sinistra e ho risolto. Ma indietro non si torna, o meglio: si torna nel tunnel di prima, pagina scaduta, ‘capacity problems’, riprova più tardi” – “half an hour later I manage to log in. I restart the online compilation, at a certain point I have to go back again because I have a doubt: it’s normal, I’m not working on paper where it’s simple to glance at the left page in order to sort it out. But there’s no way back, or rather: I’m back in the previous tunnel, page timed out, capacity problems, try again later” …
…“Ma io ormai ho perso la pazienza. Il modulo l’ho compilato. Domani lo porto alla posta, come 10 anni fa” – “But by now I’ve lost my patience. I’ve filled in the paper form. Tomorrow I’ll take it to the post office, as I did 10 years ago”.
Don’t you just love the way that technology makes life so simple!