Census system captures GAO praise
- By Judi Hasson
- Oct 11, 2000
GAO correspondence on data capture operations
The General Accounting Office has given the U.S. Census Bureau top grades
for its data scanning operations in the 2000 decennial count, noting that
the bureau is meeting deadlines and goals for accuracy.
In a letter to the House Government Reform Committee's Census Subcommittee
dated Sept. 29, GAO praised the bureau's two-pronged plan to capture household
data for the census:
1. The bureau's "first pass" of the census forms scanned only the data
needed to determine the reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives.
That information will be released at the end of December and will affect
the redistricting of every congressional seat.
2. The second pass involves capturing and storing data about the social,
economic and housing status of a sample of households. That information
will be used in a wide variety of ways, from the planning of government
services to the development of housing and shopping centers. That information
will be released in 2001.
"We found that the bureau has made good progress on first-pass data
capture operations," GAO said. "The bureau met its milestone for completing
its processing of questionnaires that households mailed back, and it finished
processing of questionnaires completed by enumerators ahead of schedule."
The bureau's data capture system, which was designed and run by Lockheed
Martin Corp., electronically gathers data from census forms. GAO noted that
the system "has exceeded its key performance goals, such as optical character
recognition accuracy in support of first-pass operations."
GAO also noted that the contractor is ahead of schedule in modifying
the data capture system for the second pass.
At four data capture centers — in Baltimore; Phoenix; Pomona, Calif.;
and Jeffersonville, Ind. — the data capture system creates digital images
of completed census forms, optically reads the responses on the forms, converts
the data to files and sends them to Census headquarters in Suitland, Md.,