My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

From Our Inbox: A New 2010 Census iPhone App

From Zubin Wadia of CiviGuard:

MyTwoCensus Team,

I figured you as someone who might be interested in publishing our Census taking app for the iPhone…

The Census Bureau will not allow people to respond to surveys online… I assume this is because it is very difficult to ensure no duplicity or contamination of results (from hackers etc.).

The site debuted about 2.5 weeks ago… and it had the 2010 form available in English and Spanish for anyone to review. A few days earlier at the Government Technology Conference I had the privilege to hear Vivek Kundra speak to us.

One thing that resonated deeply with me was his vision for a world where agencies share their data and vendors organically come up with solutions. The Census Bureau did just that. They put the form online. They made their travails public. I thought it was a travesty that the USA, in 2010, cannot allow people to do electronic censuses.

So I created an iPhone app with my team for it. It can easily be ported to the Android platform in 2 weeks. And even if the public may not be able to use it – the Census Bureau perhaps can. We are still 100+ days away from Census day 2010… which leaves plenty of time to perform any back-end integration with their address database.

The paper version of the form can be downloaded in PDF here:

About the App:

- Checkboxes are hard to do on the iPhone (not a supported component out of the box) – but it works great for this use-case and we made it happen.

- Once a survey is done (takes 2 mins for normal cases), a JSON message is created, it is encrypted, compressed and sent to a REST-style web service on Google’s App Engine.

- The system uses GeoTagging to add a layer of validation. You must be within US territories. You must be within 1 mile of your home billing address related to your cell number. Then you can do a census. One census per household.

- Integration with Telecom databases and the Census Address DB is of course pending. Our expectation is that the application will have enough buzz to yield next steps with the Census Bureau.

About CiviGuard:

We focus on Public Service 2.0 solutions for the US Government. Our core focus is emergency management – our CiviCast platform is the first solution in the world to offer guided evacuation or isolation guidance to civilians during a crisis. This is far more capable and detailed vs. the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) specification currently being pursued by the Fed.

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3 Responses to “From Our Inbox: A New 2010 Census iPhone App”

  1. Jo Says:

    That’s a pretty cool looking app – I could definitely imagine filling out my form that way. The main problem I see is that lots of people in this country don’t have computers or internet access, much less smart phones. Places like rural communities, reservations, and poor urban communities are traditionally the hardest to count and they’re the least likely to have access to technology.

  2. Anonymous CL Says:

    Jo – True, but I think offering additional options for people who do have such access isn’t really any problem for those who don’t have such access to continue using the traditional methods. Anything to improve response rate…

  3. GS-X Says:

    A momentous start but there are some fields missing from the app. For purposes of this discussion there are two 2010 Census forms. The mailed form you linked to and the ill-publicized Be Counted! form.

    The former form has some kind of unique address identifier like an alphanumeric ID or barcode sprayed on it before it is mailed. Your app needs a field for this because the census is based on an address list.

    The latter form will be put in some clinics, libraries and community centers for people to pick up, fill out and mail back. It is designed for people who did not get a census form because their home is not on the census address list or their roommate or in-law left them off the census form. The Be Counted! form has 10 fields and a checkbox for address data. Also, a question to sort out whether everyone in the house is on the form or just the forgotten roommate.

    You have no chance of getting the Census to use lat and long from GPS.