Technology can't solve Census' hardest problems

Census Director Kenneth Prewitt said Tuesday that technology won't help the 2000 census find those who are undercounted — it will take knocking on doors and old-fashioned legwork to do the job.

At a press briefing, Prewitt announced a new campaign to get local governments and community leaders involved in increasing the number of people counted in the upcoming Census and to send census workers into communities to find people who have not returned their census questionnaires.

While those filing the short form will be able to do so online, Prewitt said those who are hard to count "are groups not likely to use the Internet."

"It will not solve the problem of the most difficult to reach, the hardest to count," added Commerce Secretary William Daley, who was at the press conference.

In 1990, only 65 percent of the population was counted, but this year Pruitt said the goal is to increase the rate to at least 70 percent.

The highest response in 1990 was in the Midwest, where more than 70 percent responded in a number of farm states. The lowest rate was in Alaska — 52 percent — where remote villages make it difficult to send census workers to gather data.

On Jan. 20, Prewitt will visit Unalakleet, a remote village in Alaska that is 100 miles southeast of Nome, to begin a door-to-door census count.

The census questionnaires will be delivered beginning in mid-March. To gauge the progress of returns, the response rate for every jurisdiction will be posted on the Internet and updated daily from March 27 to April 11. (www.census.gov)

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