FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 2004
Census Bureau to Test Handheld Computers in Northwest Queens
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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 northwest Queens, N.Y.
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 New York Regional Director Tony Farthing. "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.
"Census workers are hired in the test communities because they know the neighborhoods, speak the languages spoken there and are familiar with their culture," said Farthing. "They will carry easily recognizable official identification cards. I urge residents of northwest Queens to cooperate with them."
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.