Does Not Compute

To read the whole article click on the title link above the date.
 Here’s just a sample of  news articles regarding the US Census Bureau’s $595 Million handheld computer fiasco. All that and paper and pencil too. Links to the orginal story are provided at the end of each article.

Friday April 16 2004

Census Bureau to Test Handheld Computers in Southwest Georgia

     U.S. Census Bureau workers will swap pencils and clipboards for handheld computers beginning April 24 in the next phase of its 2004 Census Test in Georgia’s Colquitt, Thomas and Tift counties.

    During the nonresponse follow-up operation, census workers will use the handheld computers to collect information from households that did not return their questionnaires by mail. The enumerators will enter respondents’ answers to the census test questions in the computers and submit completed questionnaires electronically to Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland, Md.

    Using these methods is designed not only to improve productivity, but also to reduce the high cost of paper questionnaires in the follow-up phase.

    “The biggest change in how we conduct this part of the test is the use of the handheld computers,” said Atlanta Regional Director James F. Holmes. “The census workers visiting homes will not have paper maps, paper lists or paper questionnaires.

    The Census Bureau will apply security measures such as electronic barriers, encryption and dedicated telephone lines to protect respondents’ information. In addition, every Census Bureau worker takes an oath of confidentiality. If a census worker shares information that could identify a person or household with anyone outside the Census Bureau, that worker faces a maximum of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

    Census Bureau officials ask that residents of the test area cooperate with census workers who visit their homes to obtain the information needed to complete the census questionnaire.

    “During the field test, the Census Bureau will hire workers from the test communities to do the kind of detailed work needed to ensure that each household has an opportunity to participate in the 2004 Census Test,” Holmes said. “They will carry easily recognizable, official identification cards and an official Census Bureau tote bag.”

    This and future census tests are critical to ensuring a more cost-effective and accurate 2010 Census. For the Census Bureau to do a better job in the next census, it needs to find out now what works best in communities across the nation.

Here’s the link to the orginal article:


Harris Corporation Selected for $600 Million U.S. Census Bureau Field Data Collection Automation Program

MELBOURNE, Florida, March 30, 2006 — Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS) today announced that it has been selected by the U.S. Census Bureau for the five-year, $600 million Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) program. The FDCA program will fully integrate the multiple automated systems required to efficiently and securely obtain field census data for the 2010 Census.

Harris will serve as the systems integrator and provide overall program management. Members of the Harris team include: Accenture LLP, which will provide mobile computing applications and enterprise support systems; Unisys Corporation, which will provide nationwide support and service for approximately 500 Census Bureau field offices; Dell Computer Corporation, which will provide office computing equipment; High Tech Computer Corporation, which will provide the mobile computing equipment; Sprint, which will provide telecommunications services; Oracle, which will provide database support; Client Network Services, Inc., which will provide engineering and field technician support; and Headstrong, which supported the enterprise architecture development for the 2010 Census.

“We are very excited about this win and to have the opportunity to strengthen our partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau,” said Al Dukes, president of the Civil Programs business unit of the Harris Government Communications Systems Division.

Here’s the link to the orginal article on the Harris Corp. website:


Census Works Through Handheld-Computer Glitches

By Allan Holmes   05/14/07 12:42 pm ET

Introducing new technology into old ways of doing business can be challenging at times. That’s what the U.S. Census Bureau is finding out, Government Executive observed during a recent trip to a site where the bureau is testing wireless computers.

In Fayetteville, N.C., dozens of temporary census employees are testing how new handheld computers perform in the field to verify addresses and add new ones. During a training session that the bureau held last week, many of the trainees’ handhelds froze as they tried to input or download information. The handhelds, which are linked to census databases, upload and download information via satellite and require about 10 to 15 seconds to respond to requests. During that time, trainees, thinking the computer was not operating properly, continued to tap their stylists on the touch-sensitive screens. That caused the handhelds to freeze.

The bureau is testing the use of the handheld computers in a nine-county region in and around Fayetteville as well as in Stockton, Calif., to check how well the devices help employees verify addresses. The handhelds, which are outfitted with GPS location devices, will replace the paper, pencils and maps that enumerators carried around during the prior censuses to locate addresses and to record answers from individuals who had not mailed in their census forms. Last year, Harris Corp. won the $600 million contract to supply the handhelds. Census hopes the handhelds will reduce costs for the decennial census (the 2010 census is estimated to cost $11.3 billion compared with $6.6 billion in 2000) and make the census more accurate.

This dress rehersal was conducted to uncover problems. And it did. Other problems with the handhelds included the device’s fingerprint scanner, a security feature that prevents anyone other than the enumerator from accessing data on the handheld. But Beatrice Wolff, a 70-year-old retiree from Fayetteville, found the scanner didn’t always work for her. She said the handheld’s fingerprint reader repeatedly failed to recognize her fingerprint when she would try to turn the handheld on, causing the automatic shutdown feature to kick in. That denied Wolff from accessing her computer for 15 minutes before she could try again. “This [handheld] is giving me a lot of problems,” she said.

Monique Moya, a crew leader overseeing eight people canvassing the Ft. Bragg military base in Fayetteville, said at any time as many as 25 percent of the eight listers she supervises were experiencing some kind of problem with the handheld computers in the field. Most problems were software related, she said, or because the satellite communications didn’t provide enough bandwidth. “When the handhelds are working, it’s great,” she said. “But with this being the first rollout, all the bugs are showing up.”

Harris will spend the next year trying to iron out those bugs. A Harris technician at the bureau’s Fayetteville office, who was busy fielding calls trying to solve problems with the handhelds, declined an interview. The bureau and Harris have less than two years to fix the bugs before the bureau begins to verify and add new addresses nationwide.

Here’s a link to the orginal article on


So much for a “high-tech” census in 2010.

Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez plans to tell Congress on Thursday that the next constitutionally mandated count of the U.S. population will be taking place, once again, via old-fashioned pencil and paper, according to a report by National Journal’s NextGov blog.

Census officials had been hoping to introduce handheld computers into the process of collecting and transmitting data, but numerous glitches along the way have stymied those plans.

That means, in part because of “recent increases in gas prices, postage, and printing” and the need to hire more census workers, Congress will need to allocate as much as $3 billion in additional taxpayer dollars for the 2010 census, Gutierrez was expected to tell a House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees such spending matters. That means the entire price tag for the decennial process could climb to as much as $14.5 billion.

In mid-March 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to send out forms to all American households, Gutierrez said in prepared testimony obtained by NextGov. Then, from April through June, some 580,000 census “enumerators” will go door-to-door in an attempt to interview those who haven’t mailed in the data.

After the 2000 census, government officials started plotting ways to make that “non-response follow-up” process, as it’s called in bureaucrat-speak, more efficient, and they settled on the idea of outfitting census workers with handheld computers. But that project, managed through a 5-year, $600 million contract with Harris Corporation inked in 2006, has since “experienced significant schedule, performance, and cost issues,” Gutierrez said in prepared testimony.

Here’s a link to the orginal story on cnet

Resident Apt 1

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One Response

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