Census to conduct decennial operational testing in 2008

The Census Bureau has selected San Joaquin County, Calif., and the city of Fayetteville, N.C., and its surrounding area to serve as dress rehearsal sites for the 2010 Census.

The dress rehearsal, scheduled for 2008, will give the Census Bureau the opportunity to conduct an operational test of the overall design of 2010 Census activities, such as the use of handheld computers equipped with Global Ppositioning System devices, said Census Bureau director Louis Kincannon.

'While we have tested certain parts of the plan, the dress rehearsal is our first opportunity to see how well all of the pieces fit together,' said Kincannon.

Activities during the dress rehearsal will use the systems with the features and functions that Census will use in 2010, including mobile computing, optical scanning and automatic character recognition, Internet and interactive phone capture, said Arnold Jackson, the Census Bureau's assistant director of IT systems for the 2010 Census.

'The big difference is the systems work will be done by the contractors in place for 2010,' Jackson said. In previous site dress rehearsals, Census performed the systems work, he said.

Aspects of the 2010 Census design, including the use of handheld computers, have been tested nationally or in selected local areas over the past four years.

In the dress rehearsal, Census will collect data in a subset of the communities, mail out census forms and conduct address verification with the handheld computers equipped with GPS, Jackson said.

San Joaquin County, just south of Sacramento, was selected because it presented an urban location with a multilingual population and an assortment of group housing such as hospitals, college residence halls, nursing homes, prisons and facilities for the homeless.

The Fayetteville area was selected for the dress rehearsal because it is a mix of urban, suburban and rural areas and has two military bases, Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base. The nine counties surrounding Fayetteville also will be included.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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