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Census Process Going Wireless
Counting the country's population accurately every ten years is important. The U.S. Government uses the information collected by an army of census takers to make decisions about allocating billions in federal funds for programs, services and infrastructure, as well as for determining the boundaries of congressional districts.
To better ensure accuracy, encourage participation, and save millions of dollars, the U. S. Census Bureau is getting prepared to conduct a paperless census in 2020. The idea is to have smart phones and the Internet replace the traditional clipboards and forms, according to a recent Wireless Week article.
Going digital and employing wireless technology opens the door to all kinds of efficiencies for workers and the Census Bureau. It also offers people a more streamlined way to submit their household information. This is important because the bulk of the money spent every decade on the census is focused on getting people to fill out and mail in their forms.
Preliminary tests across the country have shown that many people are more than happy to submit their census information via the Internet. People that do not have Internet connections in their homes can use their smart phones to submit their data. Instead of hoping for the best, the Census Bureau can invite people that forget to send their information to do it in on the spot via targeted campaigns at sporting events, local libraries, U.S. Post Offices or other public venues. When all else fails, workers equipped with smart phones can collect data from the stragglers.
This elegant app holds a lot of promise and it is an excellent example of how government agencies can use the Internet and wireless technology to make the best of a less than optimal legacy process. For the past three decades, the Census Bureau has received forms back from no more than 74 percent of the homes to which they were mailed.
With the switch to a paperless census, it's a safe bet that streak will be broken because people will feel more comfortable submitting their information themselves and at their own convenience. They also will likely be more eager to provide their household data to census takers that collect it quickly via smart phones instead of writing down on a stack of government forms.
The article also points out that an electronic census paves the way for the Census Bureau to use available electronic records to help fill in any gaps. A digital count in 2020 may well be the best census taken in 40 years. NetAmerica Alliance is proud to work with our Members to ensure Rural America can participate in the evolving wireless Census movement.