TIGER app tames paper

The Census Bureau is piloting a pair of open-standards applications for collecting and publishing geographic data.

One app will let end users download and view the bureau's geographic data sets with a browser instead of desktop geographic information system software. The other will let local officials upload changes in their jurisdictions' boundaries.

The Open GIS Consortium Inc. of Wayland, Mass., completed the prototypes of the applications last year, said Robert LaMacchia, chief of the bureau's Geography Division.

WebTIGER will widen access to the bureau's Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing data sets. It will download data in Geography Markup Language, a vendor-neutral specification for encoding geographic features in Extensible Markup Language.

The bureau has been supplying geographic data in TIGER/Line format, which it developed in the late 1980s for use with GIS applications, LaMacchia said.

Web browsers cannot convert TIGER/Line data into maps. With GML, however, WebTIGER can display Scalable Vector Graphics maps of the TIGER data. SVG is an open-source graphics format often used with XML.

The American FactFinder portal, at factfinder.census.gov, supplies TIGER data sets to the public, LaMacchia said. American FactFinder presents map views of census tracts, metropolitan areas, congressional districts and similar geographic divisions.

Eventually the bureau wants to make WebTIGER data available through the interagency Geospatial One-Stop portal, one of the Quicksilver e-government initiatives.

Updating changes electronically

Census' Boundary and Annexation Survey (BAS) has been a paper-intensive means of collecting changes in city, town and tribal boundary lines in preparation for the decennial population census. The WebBAS application will collect the changes electronically.

Access to WebBAS will be limited to password-protected accounts for municipal officials who already communicate changes to the bureau for BAS, LaMacchia said.

Census plans a proof-of-concept test with a small number of communities that have varying levels of Internet access, LaMacchia said.

'We're looking for the communities to provide feedback to us,' he said. 'Some people may believe that pencil and paper is still best for them.'

Census uses the jurisdictional boundary data for the annual Population Estimates Program, the Economic Census, the American Community Survey and the decennial census.

The consortium and the bureau jointly funded development of the WebBAS and WebTIGER prototypes.

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