A new report alleges officials across Indonesia's West Papua have inflated population figures for personal gain.
The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, or IPAC, is calling on the government to improve conditions ahead of next year's census.
The report, "Numbers Matter: The 2020 Census and Conflict in Papua", said inflated population statistics had fuelled corruption and conflict in the region.
In the Papuan provinces, a bigger population often means more funding from the national government.
"Statistics on population, weak to begin with because of the difficulties of reaching remote areas and poor record-keeping, have grown steadily worse in the last two decades as local Papuan elites have deliberately inflated numbers as a way to gain money and power," the report said.
The Central Highlands population might be less than half of what the voter turnout there was in this year's elections, it said.
It also linked poor population data to ongoing violence in Papua, which has killed dozens this year during protests.
"The need for a new strategy for addressing conflict in Papua is critical, and a new strategy depends on better data," said IPAC director Sidney Jones.
The population in Papua's Central Highlands might be less than half of what 2019 voter roles suggest, with "elites" from the area aided by a traditional Papuan system of proxy voting which, in many areas, resulted in a 100 percent voter turnout, the report said.
"Highlanders, led by [Papua Governor] Lukas Enembe, now control all key provincial institutions, including the governorship, the provincial parliament, and the Papuan People's Council," the report noted.
In one regency, Jayawijaya, at the time of the 2017 local elections, data from one agency showed a village as having 50,000 more people than data from another agency suggested.
The report called on the Indonesian government to adequately resource departments tasked with conducting the 2020 census, including hiring additional staff in Papua and providing them with helicopters to access remote villages.
"A more accurate headcount," the report said, "could provide the basis for rethinking Papua strategy, from governance to security to fiscal accountability."