That which gets counted, gets attention: broadband and the census

In November, Blandin hosted a webinar on the census, the theme was: Minnesota is better when everyone counts. One message was the importance of getting full participation..

To ensure fair representation and allocation of resources, and access to complete and reliable data to support community engagement, planning and economic development.

Later in the month there was an article in the Washington Post warning that the census may not be ready – actually they are maintaining that many features won’t be ready before the big testing scheduled to begin in August, 2017. The article also extolled the virtues of the greater use of technology planned for the 2020 census…

The decision to innovate with technology, instead of creating new systems, contributed to a significant cost savings, according to census officials. The 2020 Census will cost $12.5 billion, a $5 billion savings over “the paper-and-pencil-based design of the 2010 Census,” Thompson, the Census Bureau director, said.

Census officials are “under no illusions that the task before us is an easy one,” Smith added. “In fact, it is very difficult.” But he’s confident “the foundation to carry out a successful census is in place.”

And the pitfalls…

One innovation will allow replies to census questions via the Internet. Yet, “while the large-scale technological changes for the 2020 Decennial Census introduce great potential for efficiency and effectiveness gains,” the GAO warns that it puts people “more at risk for phishing attacks [requests for information from authentic-looking, but fake, e-mails and websites].”

It’s an opportunity for a push at the national level for public service announcements and education on digital literacy and cyber security. It’s also an opportunity to push better, ubiquitous broadband. (Maybe some of the $5 billion saved could be used to increase education and infrastructure to reach the census takers!)

The fear of not going to extra/last mile to reach to the far corners of the country is that we could get a skewed view of where we are and what we need. A recipe for widening and deepening the digital divide.

This entry was posted in Government by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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