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The Census Bureau Gets Its Groove Back
Leading up to the 2010 Census and during the enumeration process, the United States Census Bureau took flack from politicians and citizens on all sides of the political spectrum for its poor use of technology.
Two years ago, even as smartphones and other devices were being equipped with apps that could perform a wide range of complex tasks, the Census Bureau used pens and paper for its 2010 headcount.
However, in the two years since, the Census Bureau, led by its outgoing Director Robert Groves, recently launched its first mobile app for smartphones and tablets called "America's Economy."
This development comes on the heels of the Census Bureau's July launch of the Census Bureau's first-ever public Application Programming Interface (API), which "allows developers to design Web and mobile apps to explore or learn more about America's changing population and economy."
A Census Bureau press release states:
"The new API lets developers customize Census Bureau statistics into Web or mobile apps that provide users quick and easy access from two popular sets of statistics:
- 2010 Census, which includes detailed statistics on population, age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status, for a variety of geographic areas down to the level of census tracts and blocks.
- 2006-2010 American Community Survey (five-year estimates), which includes detailed statistics on a rich assortment of topics (education, income, employment, commuting, occupation, housing characteristics and more) down to the level of census tracts and block groups."
Already, the Census Bureau's efforts to get data back into the hands of the people is working: Scholars at Cornell University have used the API to build a new app that tracks poverty in America.
"America's Economy and the Census API we released in July are examples of what is to come from the Census Bureau, such as improvements to the census.gov website and more mobile apps," said Avi Bender, the Census Bureau's chief technology officer. "This is all part of the Census Bureau's digital transformation to provide the general public and the government workforce with access to information 'anywhere, anytime, on any device,' a key goal of the Federal Digital Strategy."
In the coming year, the Census Bureau will also be providing Internet response options for 60 different surveys, including the forthcoming Economic Census and the ongoing American Community Survey.