Census addresses enhanced tech

The Census Bureau's budget request includes plans to modernize the agency's economic survey by allowing some businesses to file online and calls for re-engineering the 2010 census by incorporating better map and address technology.

About $10 million of the Census Bureau's $91.7 million request to conduct the 2002 economic survey would go toward hardware, software, telecommunications and other information technology equipment, said Frederick Knickerbocker, associate director for economic programs at the bureau.

For the first time, 3.5 million businesses will be able to download the survey questionnaire and complete it via the Internet, he said. The bureau will use data capture technology used in the 2000 census to help it tabulate and organize the information collected into products, which are scheduled for release in spring 2004.

The bureau also asked for $13 million to improve monthly foreign trade statistics. Some of that money will go toward filing export documents electronically instead of on paper. Although only about 15 percent of these documents are now filed on paper, this translates into 250,000 paper documents that the bureau has to process every month to generate its monthly trade statistics, Knickerbocker said. This slows the process and introduces errors, he added.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau plans to expand its use of technology for the 2010 census. About $218 million will go toward re-engineering the next national head count, including modernizing the master address list and associated geographic database.

The bureau will modernize the Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system (MAF/TIGER) through improvements using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology. Census is requesting $51.4 million for fiscal 2003 -- up from $15 million in fiscal 2002 -- for MAF/TIGER improvements.

The enhancements and modernization of the address lists and associated geographic databases will help locate all housing units and enhance follow-up procedures for nonresponding households.

"These TIGER enhancements are key to allowing the Census Bureau to adopt the technology necessary to use GPS and handheld equipment to find information on people for the short-form-only census in 2010," thereby reducing costs, said Preston Jay Waite, associate director for the decennial census.

In 2004, the bureau will field-test its new, improved methodologies. In 2006, it will test the systems integration needed to carry out the census design, and in 2008, the system will undergo a full dress rehearsal.

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