The U.S. Census Bureau Field Data Collection Project: Don’t Cou...

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The U.S. Census Bureau Field Data Collection Project: Don’t Count on It

By | December 2012
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BUSINESS PROBLEM-SOLVING CASE
The U.S. Census Bureau Field Data Collection Project: Don’t Count On It

The U.S. Census is an enumeration of the American population performed once every 10 years, also called a decennial census. It is the responsibility of the United States Census Bureau and is used to determine allocation of congressional seats, allocation of federal assistance, and realignment of the boundaries of legislative districts within states. Correctly managing the census leads to billions of dollars in savings, improved service to the public, and strengthened confidence and trust in government. Reports from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and other sources suggest that the 2010 census represents a high-risk area that has been mismanaged for years. The bureau botched implementation of the Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) program, an effort to integrate handheld electronic devices into the census data collection process. The handhelds were intended to replace the millions of paper forms and maps that census workers carried when going door to door to collect household data. Paper-based methods for collecting and recording data made gathering census information time-consuming and difficult to organize. The FDCA program is intended to assist with the initial step of the process: the collection of respondent information. The goal of the program is to implement handheld devices that make census participation as simple as signing for a package. The result would be reduced costs, improved data quality, and better collection efficiency. In 2006, the bureau contracted with Harris Corporation for $595.7 million to oversee the implementation of these mobile computing devices. Harris develops communications products for government and commercial customers worldwide, including wireless transmission equipment. As of this writing, the handhelds have been far too slow and report data too inconsistently to be used reliably for the 2010 census....