Census accuracy counts on automated offices

Prouse said it is important for the Census Bureau to have a local presence nationwide to ensure that as many people as possible are counted. "We open a local office to have a local presence," he said. "There is a lot of partnering and outreach involved" to make it a success. ~Vendors that are expected to bid on the contract include Digital Equipment Corp., which in 1990 supplied equipment to the local offices— then called district offices— and DynCorp. ~The Census Bureau expects to make an award in June.The Census Bureau plans to release March 30 a solicitation for hardware, software and integration services that will automate about 520 temporary remote offices set up to support the 2000 census.

Under the estimated $100 million Automation Infrastructure for the Local Census Offices program, the Census Bureau will automate about 520 local census offices and link them to about 12 temporary Regional Census Centers, which manage field operations.

The temporary local offices— 130 will open in October and the rest a year later— will support the Census Bureau in its effort to take an accurate count of the nation's population. The local offices will serve as a base for employees who visit houses where residents have not returned census forms.

Through the automation contract, which is based on client/server architecture, the Census Bureau hopes to gain better control of how the 2000 census form data is processed. "The 1990 census was successful, but we really had 500 independent offices, and it was a challenge to make sure they were all doing the same thing," said Howard Prouse, assistant division chief for census automation in the Census Bureau's Technologies Management Office. "Now we are reducing the data to 12 locations, which will make it easier to manage. Also, in 1990, we didn't have a wide-area network, which will give us a lot more flexibility."

Each local office will be connected via frame relay to one of the regional Census centers, where processing will take place. The centers will have connections to the bureau's headquarters in Suitland, Md., also via frame relay. For the 1990 census, the bureau relied on dial-up connections to transmit data.

For the first time, each local office will have connections to the Internet, which will allow workers to track Federal Express packages and access data posted by the bureau on the agency intranet.

A typical local office will have 13 workstations based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95, one Novell Inc. NetWare 4.X local-area network server, one Cisco Systems Inc. hub, three desktop network printers, six handheld bar code readers and one optical disk storage device.

Two local offices have been set up— in Sacramento, Calif., and Columbia, S.C.,— for the census dress rehearsal, which is under way and tests how new technology and systems will work in real life.

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