U.S. Census Bureau reduces complexity
"We are very encouraged by these results (of the 2018 End to End Test) and by the performance of the systems and technology we’ve put in place for the public to safely and securely respond to the 2020 Census."
The Business Issue
The U.S. Census Bureau serves as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy. Census data is used to inform a variety of social, economic, and political decisions, from congressional seat distribution to community planning to the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds.
To gather this data, the Bureau uses a series of primarily paper-based data collection methods, including the Decennial Census of Population and Housing (every 10 years), Economic Census (every five years), Census of Governments, American Community Survey, and other current surveys and programs.
In order to modernize and streamline its data collection and processing operations, the U.S. Census Bureau launched the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing (CEDCaP) program. CEDCaP is a forward-thinking, bureau-wide initiative to create an integrated and standardized enterprise solution that will offer shared data collection and processing across all censuses and surveys. The aim of the solution is to lower complexity and deliver significant savings for all censuses and surveys, with a focus on the 2020 Census.
The 2020 Decennial Census marks a major shift from a primarily paper-based process to a primarily digital process in data collection from every household in America. According to the 2020 Census Operational Plan, “The Census Bureau estimates that 45 percent of U.S. households in areas that receive mailouts from the Census Bureau will respond via the Internet… Internet response was not available in previous decennial censuses and, therefore, represents a substantial innovation for the enterprise.”
Pega plays a key role in the delivery and realization of the Bureau’s CEDCaP vision, and is responsible for implementing several major components of CEDCaP. For the 2020 Census, the CEDCaP Pega capabilities are the internet self-response system (ISR), the field enumeration mobile application, and the field and survey operational control systems.
Census is using the unified Pega Government Platform to build and execute these Census Enterprise Survey Operations. With this technology, Census is able to start with the capability targeted at the 2020 Decennial Census. From there, Census can iterate and thoughtfully layer in capability to support economic, demographic, and other survey needs spanning across many modes and input channels.
In the 2017 Census Test, the U.S. Census Bureau assessed the integration of operations and systems needed for households to respond to the census online in advance of the 2020 Census. The test also included telephone and traditional paper questionnaire response options for citizens who prefer to use those channels. As part of this test, a national sample self-response test was distributed to 80,000 U.S. households using the Enterprise Censuses and Surveys Enabling (ECaSE) Platform built with the Pega Government Platform. Based on results of the 2017 Census Test and further performance and scale testing, the 2020 Census Executive Steering Committee confirmed their decision to use the Pega application as the ISR (Internet Self-Response) solution for the 2020 Census.1
The next step in the preparations for 2020 was the 2018 End-to-End Test. The 2018 Census Test supports the goal of the 2020 Census, which is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.2 The enumeration phase of the 2018 Test took place in Providence, Rhode Island, and rigorously tested each of the three self-response methods that the public will be able to use in the 2020 Census: internet, phone and paper.2
Thanks to close collaboration with the Census Bureau and other industry partners, Pega was able to successfully deliver the required platform capabilities for the 2018 End-to-End Test, including the initial mobile field application for enumerators, within the tight timeframe required by the Census roadmap to 2020. The model-driven technology of the Pega platform, coupled with agile scrum methodology, allowed for a highly iterative, collaborative, and efficient process where product owners were able to play an active role in ensuring that the application met their requirements.
Peak operations of the 2018 Census Test were completed in late Summer 2018. More than half of Providence County responded to the test on their own (52.3 percent), surpassing the projected self-response rate by 3 percentage points, with the majority of self-responses (61.2 percent) received through the internet. The Census Bureau also observed a substantial increase in enumerator productivity from the adoption of technology and automation: In 2010, enumerators completed 1.05 cases per hour worked. In the 2018 test, enumerators completed 1.56 cases per hour worked, a 48.57% improvement in productivity.3
All text sourced directly from Governments Building for Change.
- https://www.census.gov/library/video/2018/2018-01-26-2020-pmr.html; Atri Kalluri, Chief, Decennial IT Directorate (DITD), at 2020 Census Program Management Review (PMR), January 26, 2018, Transcript (Page 73): https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/pmr-materials/01-26-2018/transcript2018-01-26-pmr.pdf
- Census Director’s blog. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/director/2018/09/final-census-test-proves-successful.html?CID=CBSM+DirBlog
- From the Director’s blog post / Press release https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/census-demonstrates-readiness-for-2020-census.html
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