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Jan 31, 2007

Census to use Handhelds to Minimize Map Errors

In 2010 census, the Census Bureau will equip its temporary work force of 500,000 people with hand-held computers to help them make a more precise count of the people living in the U.S. it was reported today.

The bureau will mail the traditional census form to all U.S. addresses in March of 2006. Experience shows that about 35% of the recipients will not respond. In order to count those people, the Census Bureau plans to send out 500,000 enumerators. The enumerators will carry wireless hand-held computers, specially made by Harris Corp. Over a three-month period, data will be collected and transmitted to computers at 455 regional offices.

About half of census-recording errors come from mapping mistakes, Preston Jay Waite, Associate Director for the Decennial Census said. In the past, the bureau printed paper maps identifying each U.S. household. But census-takers often had trouble deciphering the maps. This time, they'll use computer maps that pinpoint each address to an accuracy of 3 meters.

Field trials so far have resulted in a 91 percent accuracy rate, which Waite said is better than expected. "At first, we wanted to develop the technology ourselves, but we realized that we didn't have the expertise," Waite said.

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