Coming soon: An economic stats app from Census

Oleksiy Mark/

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2020 count is likely to include outside data.

The U.S. Census Bureau plans to launch an economic statistics app for iPhone and Android devices in a matter of weeks, outgoing director Robert Groves told lawmakers Wednesday.
The agency also is streaming much of its data through an application programming interface, so companies, nonprofits and tech savvy individuals can use the information to create their own marketable statistical applications, he said.
Groves was testifying before a financial management panel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Mobile apps to share government information and APIs to spread raw government data are two main pillars of the federal digital strategy, launched in May. Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel has argued government-gathered information, such as census data, can help spawn private sector industries provided the government releases its data in a clean and timely way. Early examples of such industries based on government data are the markets for weather and Global Positioning System information.
Wednesday’s hearing was focused on early planning for the 2020 census, which officials expect to be the first decennial census conducted partially online.
In addition to online and on-foot information gathering for the 2020 census, the agency expects to rely increasingly on data sets collected by other federal agencies and the private sector to make its work more efficient, Groves told lawmakers. For example, other agencies might have information about households that haven’t responded to census queries that will help Census figure out when and how to check back, he said.
In some cases, legislation might be necessary to allow agencies to share that information. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., asked Groves to send any needed legislative fixes to his office, saying he could “grease the skids.”

(Image via Oleksiy Mark/