Exploring respondents’ understanding and perceptions of demographic surveillance systems in Western Africa: methodological and ethical issues

  • Nathalie Mondain Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa
Keywords: Ethics, Reporting back results, Demographic surveillance system, Communication tools, Western Africa


The longitudinal data collected in DSS enriched by the additional studies conducted in the same sites contribute to provide in depth insights in regarding demographic changes. However, an important issue relates to the sustainability of such systems which constrain people to repeatedly answer similar questions. This may be aggravated by the fact that populations, often uneducated and poor, do not always see the benefits of these systems and thus may provide partial answers. DSS use sophisticated methods to control for inconsistencies, but more fundamentally, it appears crucial after decades of practice to get an insight on populations’ perceptions on the DSS activities and whether these make sense to them or not. Drawing from exploratory fieldworks conducted in different sites in Senegal and Burkina Faso, we examine populations’ perceptions and expectations regarding the DSS activities and look for ways to open for a more participatory approach.