Census Bureau Marks 10th Anniversary of www.census.gov; Serves 1.5 Million Pages to Web Surfers Per Day
Visitors to the U.S. Census Bureau's Internet site view more than 1.5 million pages of information a day, 13,000 percent more than 10 years ago when they accessed only about 12,000 pages a day.
In March 1994, the Census Bureau became one of the first government agencies to offer a WWW portal. Although the Census Bureau had long been a pioneer in using computer- technology, developing the first electrical tabulating machines for the 1890 census and the UNIVAC computer for the 1950 census -- activation of the Web site marked the first availability of "point-and-click" access to its vast storehouse of statistics.
"For much of the past two centuries, only the most data-savvy researchers and librarians could access -- let alone digest -- statistics collected by the Census Bureau, but all of that has changed during the past decade," said Commerce Secretary Don Evans.
The Census Bureau is on the cutting edge of using technology to make information available to all Americans and, indeed, to all the world.
U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said, "Quality government statistics require quality input from citizens and businesses alike. Census Bureau technology gives consumers and decision-makers a payback with more timely and relevant information, which is readily accessible online."
Changes during the past 10 years include the addition of the American FactFinder data retrieval system, which allows users to create customized tables and maps from a complex array of data sets, and the State and County QuickFacts, which summarizes population and business statistics for every state and county in the country. Other popular features include the capability to produce maps and the 1990 Census Lookup tool.
Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon said that because of the Internet and the Web, "we have become more efficient, reduced paperwork, realized cost savings and become more responsive to our customers."
For example, Kincannon said, "Ten years ago the 1990 census results took up more than 450,000 pieces of paper which, when stretched out, would have spanned 78 miles. Posting Census 2000 results directly on the Internet has enabled us to eliminate more than 75 percent of our paper products."
The Web site enables users to gain direct access to information and Census Bureau products, resulting in streamlined customer service. Between January and November 1993, the Census Bureau's customer service office received nearly 17,000 orders and inquiries by mail or fax. During the same period in 2003, the number of paper orders dropped dramatically, to less than 500.
Since its inception, the Census Bureau's Web site has garnered several awards, including PC Magazine's "Top 100 Web Sites" and Entrepreneur magazine's recognition of it as an information resource for small businesses.
The Census Bureau also has created an Internet feature showing how the site's home page has changed over the years. Feedback from customers and focus groups has been used by Internet developers at the Census Bureau, who say making their site easier to navigate is a priority as new customers and data are continuously added.