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The Times, They Are a-Changin’

Posted By jennifer On August 21, 2012 @ 9:22 pm In About the Agency,Digital Transformation,Measuring America | 2 Comments

Written by: Tom Mesenbourg, Acting Director

As you know, Census Bureau Director, Bob Groves, resigned August 11, 2012 to become Provost at Georgetown University.  Bob was an inspirational leader and it was a privilege and a joy to work closely with him the past three years.

Effective August 12, I was appointed Acting Director.  I am honored to have been asked to lead this great organization and I look forward to working closely with our stakeholders, oversight organizations, partners, data suppliers, data users, and Census Bureau staff to make the Census Bureau an ever more efficient, effective, and responsive organization.  Dr. Nancy Potok is the new Deputy Director and I could not be more pleased.

We face a challenging future.  Resources will be constrained and possibly reduced.  Getting businesses, institutions, and households to participate in surveys and censuses will become more difficult.  Policy makers, public and private decision makers, and the general public demands for relevant, timely information will grow, and users will expect information to be easily accessible and to be available for small geographic areas and small population groups.

To respond to this future we must change.  We need to change the way we collect, compile, and produce statistics. We must offer multiple response options that facilitate reporting and reduce reporting burden. We must be more attentive and responsive to data providers concerns. And finally we must find ways to integrate Census Bureau data sets with public and private data sets  to develop new low cost products. I am excited about the initiatives we currently have underway that promise to transform our methods, processes, and products and you will hear more about them in future blogs.

I have been at the Census Bureau for almost 40 years, but I am more convinced than ever that we need to continue to innovate. Our employees have demonstrated that they can be engines of innovation and over the past several years, they have submitted hundreds of great ideas that save money and improve products and processes. We also need to be attuned to the concerns of our data providers. In January 2013, we will roll out an Internet reporting option for the American Community Survey that will make reporting easier for sampled households.

We also need to make our statistics more accessible, both for every day users and those who are just discovering them. On July 26, we released our first-ever Application Programming Interface (API), allowing developers to create apps using 2010 Census and American Community Survey information. We are already seeing developers create some great apps from the API.

During the first week of August, we followed up the release of the API with our first-ever mobile app, America’s Economy. This app provides users with instant access to 16 key economic indicators from not only the Census Bureau but also the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The economist in me finds this app a cool new tool, and I encourage all of you to check it out and tell us how we can make it even more useful.

What information is available from the America’s Economy app? Last week, we released advance monthly retail sales. The app will show you that that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for July, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $403.9 billion, an increase of 0.8 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month and 4.1 percent (±0.7%) above July 2011.

The API and America’s Economy app are just the beginning when it comes to making our statistics more accessible and easier to use. In the coming months, you will see two more mobile apps from the Census Bureau. These apps will highlight the breadth of our statistics and the ways people can use them. You will also see changes coming to census.gov as we transform our website to place the statistics you need at your fingertips.

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