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Census Plans 2016 Test Run to Experiment with New Tech Tools

Gil C/

The Census Bureau has big tech plans for its 2020 count, and it’s organizing a trial run to make sure all goes according to plan.

The bureau is rolling out a handful of new options in 2020 designed to upgrade the decennial headcount for the digital age. The new options include allowing residents to respond to the census via the Internet for the first time and equipping Census workers with mobile devices as they go door-to-door to check in with residents who haven’t responded to previous communications.

Census will officially announce the 2016 test run in a Federal Register notice set to be published Aug. 4. The test will take place in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, as well as Los Angeles County. These locations were chosen for their dense populations, linguistic diversity and because they contain “hard to count” populations, according to the notice.

The dress rehearsal will allow Census to assess its “Internet push” strategy by sending digital questionnaires to participants before sending paper versions.

“The 2016 Census test is designed to evaluate several strategies to optimize the rate at which the public self-responds to the census,” the notification stated.

The bureau will also test the feasibility of decking out field workers with mobile devices to conduct follow-ups. The test will include a combination of new Census-owned devices as well as a “bring your own device” option, which will allow agency employees to simply use their own smartphones to input data. 

Experimenting with different mobile devices “will enable the Census Bureau to assess options for a secure and cost-effective approach” to conducting follow-ups, the notice stated.

The public is invited to comment on the bureau’s plans for its 2016 test.

(Image via Gil C/

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