Social media tracks Census director's Alaska trip

The 2010 count began north of the Arctic Circle and was tracked via Twitter

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves kicked off the 2010 decennial headcount with a dogsled ride to a remote Alaska town and a flurry of social media content.

Groves’ trip north of the Arctic Circle to Noorvik was tracked via Twitter posts from Census staff and a blog entry penned by Groves. Census takers launched the count in rural Alaska on Jan. 25 to reach residents before they leave for hunting and fishing grounds, according to the Census Bureau.

Census questionnaires will be mailed to the rest of the country in mid-March.

The temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit when Groves landed at a one-strip airport about a mile away from the village, Groves said in his blog. Then Groves climbed aboard a sled to complete his journey to Noorvik.

“My musher was a 12-year old student who, after we moved out of the congestion of the airport, stopped and allowed me to mush the team for a bit of time,” Groves wrote. “Great fun; the lead dog was instantly responsive to his commands and, even though my training was limited to about 45 seconds, it was a blast.”

The trip was also chronicled by Census Bureau tweets.

“Villagers are wearing T-shirts that read: ‘I'm Inupiaq and I count,’” according to one tweet.

“Village assembly meeting has commenced in Noorvik. Lt Gov Campbell took off his jacket —‘it's hot in here’—to reveal Noorvik 2010 tshirt,” said another tweet.

Upon arriving in Noorvik, Groves met with residents and village leaders. He then walked to the home where the first enumeration took place, according to Census officials.

In 2000, this Inupiat Eskimo village had a population of 634. The latest Census Bureau estimates put the population at about 660, according to the Census Bureau.

In his blog, Groves explained the difficulties in getting an accurate count for some Alaska villages.

“There are few roads, very small clusters of houses, with trails for snowmobiles (called snow machines here) and sleds between them,” he wrote. “Building trust with villages has taken several years of work from our Alaska team. The test of those relationships will be the next few weeks, as we use village leaders to help us identify census takers from the village.” 

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.


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