Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Statistics • COVID-19 response

Brazil's capacity-building strategies in pandemic times


This article is also available in Russian.

The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) had to postpone the Population Census until 2021 and suspend the data collection of its in-presence surveys due to the pandemic. As a result, to respond to the new reality of remote work, IBGE’s National School of Statistical Sciences (ENCE) increased the number of e-learning opportunities.

Self-paced online courses were released with no access restrictions. The courses are about the fundamental principles of statistics, the preparation of graphs and tables and about IBGE’s automated table retrieval system. In May, more self-paced online courses will be available, in themes such as IT safety and IBGE’s structure and production.

Another capacity-building action was to prepare an inventory of free open online courses from accredited institutions in 5 management areas, considered strategic by IBGE’s president: people development, bidding process, budget and finance, planning and monitoring, and risk management. ENCE’ s Capacity-Building Department applied some intelligence on this inventory producing a sort of ‘learning trail’ in each area, showing sequences of courses with pre-requisites and related courses. A visual map for those trails was disseminated in IBGE’s intranet, our main internal communication channel.

More e-learning opportunities were also included in a pre-existing program called Capacity-Building for the 2020 Population Census. This program was a result of combined efforts from ENCE and the Operational Department of Censuses, which is linked to the president’s office. It encompasses several areas of knowledge: procedures for updating enumeration areas and address registers for statistical purposes, IBGE’s structure and production, IT safety, fund supply management, didactics for census trainers, guidelines for publicizing the Population Census, institutional partnerships, and sample household survey practical experience. As Brazilian Population Census was postponed, IBGE gained more time to develop staff in other areas such as ethics and integrity and methods to approach informants. Particularly for that last theme, ENCE produced a new self-paced online course on guidelines and procedures to conduct telephone interviewing.

There were several challenges to implement those plans: IT infrastructure for IBGE Virtual School was not prepared for the increase in access through internet; the capacity-building team had to work under a lot of pressure in a new mode of work; and several departments had to integrate efforts in a very tight schedule. President’s and directors’ sponsorship was essential to render improved IT capacity for IBGE Virtual School and new capacity-building solutions in time as a result of combined efforts. Despite the troubled times, we consider the Census staff ended up having an invaluable learning experience in a broader array of areas, which will certainly contribute to a better prepared team for the Population Census in 2021. It was also a unique opportunity to review and update key work competencies for IBGE’s employees.