The 2016 Census will be Australia's first paperless national head count

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Next year, close to 24 million people will be asked to complete the 2016 Census on August 9.

And for the first time ever, it’s going digital, with the lengthy hardcopy document also available online. More than two-thirds of Australia’s population is expected to go digital on Census night.

The national census, conducted once every five years, provides important snapshots into Australia’s people and their lives, but has been a slow and expensive process.

In 2011, the census was Australia’s largest logistical peacetime operation employing 43,000 field staff to deliver 14.2 million forms to more than 9.8 million households.

The entire operation cost $440 million, prompting rumours earlier this year that the Australian Bureau of Statistics would dump the national census especially after the government cut funding to the ABS.

The new online copy hopes to rein in a new digital focus that will streamline the process for respondents.

“They’ll be able to complete it on their phone, on their iPad, wherever they’ve got a mobile device, they’ll be able to fill in the survey,” parliamentary secretary Kelly O’Dwyer told the ABC.

“It’s pretty much a world first in terms of the number of people who’ll be completing an online census and we think it’s a great innovation because it means it’s going to be easier for people and it’s also far more environmentally friendly.”

The ABS says that the move will produce 327 less tonnes of paper material as well as travelling 230,00 less kilometres — the equivalent to 58 return trips between Sydney and Perth.

It will also employ 39,000 temporary field staff who will be responsible for processing, producing and publishing the data from Australia’s 10 million dwellings.

The paper option will still be available to those who are not able to fill it out online.

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