Census' DADS: A good idea, but let's not forget about print

The Census Bureau is busy inventing the next generation of delivery mechanisms for getting government information to the people. It's called the Data Access and Dissemination System (DADS), and it's intended to be the information distribution system to carry the agency into the 21st century. While

The Census Bureau is busy inventing the next generation of delivery mechanisms for getting government information to the people. It's called the Data Access and Dissemination System (DADS), and it's intended to be the information distribution system to carry the agency into the 21st century.

While one might wish the agency had hit upon a more euphonic acronym, DADS will make you sit up and take notice.

DADS started with a bold step: "The Internet, along with other electronic delivery systems, will gradually become the primary sources for Census Bureau statistics."

Among other things, this means that Census intends gradually to abandon the printed page as a primary distribution format.

Already Census has issued a list of publications that will no longer be available in print but only electronically on CD-ROM or on the Internet.

Last year Census decided that it could only design and build the new system through steady and continuing consultation with its many data users. The agency then surveyed its users, inside and outside of government, convening focus groups with business and economic organizations, ethnic minority and rural groups, academia and the media.

Users told Census they wanted two different things. On the one hand, they still wanted to be able to retrieve, order or download some prepackaged statistical summaries - the ones they were used to seeing from past years. On the other hand, they wanted the ability to define their own customized data products on-line.

DADS is designed to give users both prepackaged statistical summaries and the ability to perform their own value-added data manipulation, extraction, display and downloading.

Users will be able to construct their own data tables and even calculate simple statistics. Census intends the system to be intuitive and user-friendly, to provide on-line help and training and, eventually, to provide access to all Census data sets.

Not Just Population Statistics

Remember, Census is not just about population statistics. It collects and publishes statistics on population, housing, agriculture, governments, business, manufacturing and foreign trade, to name but a few of its subject areas.

The ambition for DADS is that the user will be able to tap into all those statistical areas on-line in real time. The unifying principle is geography. Census will integrate into DADS all its data sources with comparable levels of geographic detail.

We're talking vast quantities of information here. For example, by this fall, Census expects to have a prototype of DADS ready for testing. The prototype will include only the data from the 1990 census of population. That alone will amount to 150G of data that users will be able to access interactively on-line. By the time DADS is available to the public in 2001, the size of the available databases will be many multiples of 150G.

All this information largesse will come at a price to users. Most of the on-line DADS transactions will involve a fee. Census recently issued a pricing policy for its existing information products. It now finds itself wrestling with the problem of how DADS-based products will be priced.

A series of knotty problems lines the path to implementation. For one thing, there is the disclosure-avoidance issue presented by Census' strict confidentiality laws. The agency must program into the system a set of techniques for ensuring that users can access and download only aggregate data, statistically protected against the possibility that someone could identify data on individuals.

The Reasons Behind DADS

Much slimmer budgetary resources and the explosion of networked information technology are the primary pushes behind DADS.

One of the pulls is the increasing technological sophistication of data users, who are demanding government information in a timelier fashion and in more accessible electronic formats. Agencies throughout government are abandoning print publishing and hastening to less expensive and faster electronic distribution.

I applaud the wholesale shift to Internet-based dissemination of government information and Census' efforts to create the future now with DADS.

Yet at the same time, I wonder whether we will see a backlash from users who want to read the printed page.

Print publishers are not going out of business, so far as I know. Libraries and many other institutions still want bound books to give to their customers.

In their rush to give us Internet goodies, agencies must not forget that the demand for information in print is still strong.

**

Sprehe is president of Sprehe Information Management Associates, Washington, D.C. He can be reached via the Internet at jtsprehe@intr.net. This column can be read on FCW's home page at http://www.fcw.com.

NEXT STORY: Round Two

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.