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Memorandum 2016.01

This memorandum documents the Census Bureau’s decision to implement the Device as a Service strategy for provisioning equipment to enumerators in the 2020 Census.


Following the release of the 2020 Census Operational Plan on October 6, 2015, the Census Bureau undertook a rigorous planning session to outline the execution details of the remaining tests and examine where operational risk could be reduced. As part of this effort, the Census Bureau considered the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations to examine whether any decisions could be made ahead of schedule to reduce risk.

The initial 2020 Census design contemplated various technology options to provide enumerators with devices or smartphones. The first option was Device as a Service in which the Census Bureau would award a contract to a telecommunications company that would provide devices and the accompanying service contract on behalf of the Census Bureau to enumerators. The second option, known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), would have allowed enumerators to conduct their work for the Census Bureau using their own smartphone and individual cellular plans.

The decision to employ the Device as a Service option is ahead of schedule. Original plans called for the options to be tested during three tests, conducted in 2014, 2015, and 2016. During the recent planning session, Census Bureau experts evaluated data from the 2014 and 2015 Census Tests and determined that all of the data needed to render a sound operational decision is available now.


While the 2014 and 2015 Census Tests did not generate observable concerns from enumerators, risks related to BYOD were identified. First, a BYOD option would have resulted in a diverse universe of smartphones that would have included numerous providers and operating systems over which the Census Bureau had no control. Managing updates to multiple mobile device operating systems and smartphones days before enumeration begins, or during enumeration, would have presented significant risk. For example, even a few hours of delay caused by the inability to deliver updated information uniformly could cost millions of dollars of wasted productivity and reduce public confidence. Second, developing a policy to reimburse enumerators for use of their personal smartphone (including data charges and airtime) for professional purposes would have presented logistical and administrative challenges, including significant opportunities for billing irregularities. Separating Census Bureau related charges from personal charges would have caused unreasonable time delays and increased paperwork processing for employees and the Census Bureau. Third, developing acceptable use policies for a wide variety of personal devices and operating systems that would gain agreement from temporary employees would have been difficult and time consuming.


The Census Bureau will implement the Device as a Service strategy for provisioning equipment to enumerators in upcoming census tests and in the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau will no longer pursue the use of the BYOD.

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