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US government discovers internet: Census Bureau to offer online survey

The web makes government just a little more efficient
The web makes government just a little more efficient

U.S. government paperwork will see a decline in 2013 as the Census Bureau opens up an online survey option for the American Community Survey.

This will actually not be the first time the U.S. Census Bureau offered an online response option for surveys. According to the Census Bureau it will be the sixty first survey to allow internet polling.

However, this will be the first time that the American Community Survey allows for internet responses. The American Community Survey is the largest annual poll that the U.S. Census Bureau operates, sent out to more than 3.5 million randomly selected households throughout each year.

The American Community Survey covers a range of 40 topics, including education, occupation, language, ancestry, and housing costs to assist in everything from government policies to local city planning.

With the online response option, for the first time the American Community Survey will also include a series of questions regarding household computer and internet usage.

We the internet people

"The online response option is part of an ongoing digital transformation at the Census Bureau," said Census Bureau acting director Thomas Mesenbourg.

"The Census Bureau is transforming to make responding to surveys more convenient, conducting surveys more cost-effective and America's statistics more accessible on digital and mobile devices."

Making the census surveys digital certainly makes it more convenient for a large portion of the country, which will hopefully result in a larger pool of responses.

The U.S. Census Bureau will start sending out letters later this week to the next batch of census recipients, with details on how to complete the survey securely online. Those who do not want to use the online option, or who simply procrastinate for too long, will be greeted by a second letter including a paper survey or friendly phone call questionnaire.

It's a promising first step, and should all go well the internet option could become a mainstay in the next major national census in 2020. The last major poll in 2010 cost the U.S. Census Bureau a record-breaking $13 billion, but something as simple as answering online could make a significant dent in bringing that cost down.