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FCW : February 2016
Census 24 February 2016 FCW.COM it became apparent the devices would not be ready in time for end-to-end testing. This time around, Census officials say they’re confident an off-the-shelf device approach will yield success. “This isn’t really new to us,” said Evan Moffett, the bureau’s assistant division chief for geographic operations. “Last cen- sus, we put 154,000 mobile devices in the field for address canvassing, and we’ve got a small army of staff out there knocking on doors every day.” Census plans to finalize its mobile strategy in October 2017. Better too many than too few Mobility might yield benefits for Census, but it’s also part of the 2020 challenge. “The United States continues to be a highly mobile nation as about 12 percent of the population moves in a given year,” the Census plan states. “Continued growth in the use of cel- lular telephone technology and an associated reduction in landline telephones tied to physical locations may also com- plicate enumeration.” By constitutional mandate, Census must count everybody where they live; the bureau can’t use statistical models to estimate the population. So for the 2016 census tests, the bureau will refine its non-ID response processing, by which respondents can be counted online without supplying a unique census ID code. The JASON advisory group, administered by Mitre, issued a report in November 2015 that supported the thrust of non- ID response acceptance: Given the constitutional mandate, it’s better for Census to err on the side of accepting a few faulty responses while trying to reach as many Americans as possible rather than exclude people with too-rigorous data checks. “The regrets of letting through a small number of bad forms — especially if they [are] not part of any concerted scheme to skew census results — may be much smaller than the regrets of systematically undercounting a known elusive population,” the report states. JASON proposed that Census partner with Internet service providers to easily check the locations of respondents. Census officials said they were considering all options. Upcoming contracts Two major 2020 census contracts are due to be awarded this summer. The 2020 Census Questionnaire Assistance contract is a key part of the planned departure from 2010’s paper-dependent approach. The contract, due to be awarded in June, will entail online respondent support and will allow respondents to be counted over the phone. The 2020 Census Integrated Communications contract will similarly support the online push. It will cover social media and other Internet outreach and advertising, along with one more component of Census’ aggressive, count-every- body-wherever-they-are plan: putting Internet self-response kiosks in public places. The contract is scheduled for award in August. In September, the bureau will finalize security and pri- vacy, Internet self-response and IT infrastructure operational plans, and by December, it plans to award its Field IT Infra- structure contract, which could be massive because it covers office equipment, the CEDCaP system and — depending on Census’ final decision — mobile device support, among other things. The Census Bureau estimated that it could shave $5 billion off the cost of the 2020 count by using Internet responses, administrative records from other agencies and mobile de- vices. Atri Kalluri, chief of the bureau’s Decennial Information Technology Division, has said technology should allow the bureau to use half as many enumerators in 2020 as it used in 2010 (300,000 versus 600,000). All told, the awards and decisions Census must make in 2016 will prove critical to getting the overall effort running smoothly and making 2020 a modernized enumeration. “2016 is going to be a significant step for [Census],” Cha said. “We’re bringing the decennial census into the 21st cen- tury,” Blumerman said. “This census is going to be like no other census.” n 2020 Census Questionnaire Assistance contract (June)—to provide support for counting respondents via phone and Internet. 2020 Census Integrated Communications contract (August)—to cover social media and other Internet outreach and put self-response kiosks in public places. The Census Bureau is due to award two major contracts this summer: 0216fcw_022-024.indd 24 1/26/16 2:55 PM
March 15, 2016