Written by: John H. Thompson
The United Nations General Assembly designated October 20, 2015 as the second-ever World Statistics Day to highlight the many achievements of national statistical systems across the globe. The U.S. government has a long history of collecting data about the nation’s people, places and economy – beginning with the first census in 1790. Today, the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies publish the statistics the nation uses to record progress and plan for the future.
In the United States, quality, timely, accessible data is the foundation of good decision-making. Policy makers at every level of government, businesses of all sizes, and individuals across America all depend on statistics to make informed decisions. That’s why the Census Bureau is committed to continually improving our data sources and statistical methods – to enable better decisions that ultimately result in better lives for all of us.
One of the key ways that the Census Bureau meets that commitment is through the innovative use of technology. The advent of modern computing and the Internet have revolutionized the way we collect, process and share data, and we’re making smart use of technology to make future censuses and surveys more efficient. More than 60 of our censuses and surveys now have an online response option, and in 2017, the Economic Census will move to 100% electronic data collection. In 2020, the decennial census is making the leap from pencil and paper to the Internet. Among the many innovations that will be deployed for the 2020 Census, we’re making it easier and more convenient than ever to complete the census by adding an option for online response. We’re also giving mobile devices with special software to census takers – allowing them securely transmit daily assignments, real-time updates, timesheets, and even calculate the best route for that day’s workload.
Innovation and digital technology also let us share our statistics more widely and easily than ever. We’ve made major upgrades to Census.gov to make Census Bureau statistics as accessible as possible to our more than 40 million annual visitors. We’ve created mobile apps and interactive digital tools to expand access to our statistics – most recently we released Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition to help entrepreneurs get access to statistics that can help them start or grow a business. Our API and the City Software Development Kit give developers and entrepreneurs access to our statistics in a format that makes it easy to mash up and consume.
The possible ways to use all of these readily available statistics are endless. Companies like Zillow and Target are able to understand more about the communities and consumers they serve; government agencies can better simulate the spread of infections diseases and prepare for the next potential outbreak; and educators can change the way their students think about math, numbers and life.
Today I encourage you to learn more about the ways that official statistics help people around the world develop informed policies that improve lives. Visit worldstatisticsday.org to learn more about how the national statistical systems in Indonesia, Germany, New Zealand and many other countries are meeting the challenge of Better Data. Better Lives. Happy World Statistics Day!