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Census 2010 Problems

Uh oh. The Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) PDAs that are supposed to replace the traditional pen and paper method used by census-takers are not working properly. Thus, the census “dress rehearsal” this spring has been delayed by a month as the agency scurries to come up with backup plans. The FDCA program that was meant to save taxpayers $1 billion now has these delays sending the cost $600 million to as much as $2 billion.

Carlos M. Gutierrez, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, testified at the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on the status of the 2010 Census.

Gutierrez stated: “We have discovered serious problems with the FDCA program and I am personally involved in bringing key issues to the surface and developing a way forward. In short, the current situation is unacceptable.”

The GAO published a report on these Census problems and made an announcement designating the 2010 Census Project as “High Risk”. The GAO warned the Census bureau last year about slow and inconsistent data transmission from last year’s field testing. Guess they should have heeded that warning, right?

The IEEE blog made a good point on this whole mess: “Fed Ex can use handhelds to track packages, why can’t we do the same for collecting Census data – should be dead easy, right? The idea in itself wasn’t not outrageous, as long as the risks involved were clearly understood and managed” and obviously they were not!

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