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There is no Internet in the Census

My favorite story of the day is this one about the Census essentially saying people there don't wanna use the Internet. And it is timely given that FCW's 7.23 issue is about what the Census is doing to use technology to improve the 2010 count.

The issue of the 2010 Census was before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee this week, and you had some really remarkable quotes. One of my favorites was this from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.):

"I'm appalled that you are not at least trying to do this on the Internet," he said. "We don't have a vision to get this done. I will do everything I can to force the Internet down your throat with amendments. You are living in the past, not the future. I recommend you get on board for 2010."

I'm going to read through the hearing testimony, although I don't think the prepared testimony focuses on this issue all that much.

I have asked Commerce and Census folks if they can educate me about why they don't use the Internet. I welcome more data.

I was talking to a former Commerce Department official, who had pushed the Census to do more online. This person told me that the Census is just dead set against changing the way they do things. And they use every tool in the book to not change -- and agencies -- well, all organizations -- have many tools.

One very effective tool that the Census has is fear. One person told me that there seems to be about two weeks out of every 10 years that one can make changes to the way the Census is performed. If one raises issues too early, Census officials say, 'Well, we're just not thinking about the next Census yet.' If one raises issues later, they say, 'Well, it's just too late and we can't change things. If we change things, we risk putting the count at risk...and then it would be on your head!' Trite, but effective.

I have put some calls out so I can understand the situation more because, to be honest with you, I don't get it. It seems so...old school. No organization gets to dictate how it does business. You have to do business in a way that is most effective for the people to reach them. For some, that will be paper, but for others, it will be online.

One person I was talking with said that Coburn may have met his match when it comes to this issue. Perhaps Coburn can turn the blogosphere on to this issue the way he was able to with the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jul 18, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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