Written by John H. Thompson
Today, the U.S. Census Bureau announced a major decision on the path to the 2020 Census. Since December 2014, we’ve been assessing whether to use commercial software products to collect and process data in the 2020 Census, or whether to build our own systems. After a great deal of evaluation and discussion, we have determined that a hybrid approach – combining a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system with specific solutions developed by Census experts – will best meet our needs.
During this same period, our in-house innovation and development teams have been hard at work developing prototypes that we could test during the 2020 Census field tests. These prototypes delivered key digital data collection system capabilities for data collection. This testing has been a critical part of the development process, allowing us to better understand how we could reengineer our business processes to save money during the 2020 Census. The work of the teams helped us develop and refine our requirements, and to make a well-informed evaluation of the COTS products.
Based on our final requirements and an analysis of the development and testing results – and with input from experts at Carnegie Mellon University, and the National Academy of Sciences – we decided on an integrated COTS platform that can supply functional solutions as well as allow us to incorporate some of the innovations that we have developed in-house. This approach meets our data collection and processing goals for the 2020 Census, and builds the infrastructure to support all of our censuses and surveys in the future.
Refining the systems we use for data collection and processing is a critical component of our proposal to save $5.2 billion in the 2020 Census, compared to repeating the 2010 Census design. The timing of this decision was critical to meet the schedules and timelines that are key to preparing for the 2018 End-to-End Test, which will test the integration of all major operations and systems.
To learn more about how we made this decision for the agency, click here. For more information about how we’re preparing for the next census, check out the 2020 Decision Memo and our 2020 Census Operational Plan.