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US census likely to be largely online

Final answers won’t be needed for about eight years, but the team hopes to keep costs below the $14.7 billion budgeted for the 2010 Census and to make it possible for at least some Americans to answer questions via the Internet.

world Updated: May 20, 2010 00:31 IST

How will Americans use the Internet in 2020? Will we all use cellphones? Will we still have snail mail? Experts at the US Census Bureau are asking those questions in preparation for the 2020 count, even as temporary workers are knocking on doors to complete the 2010 Census.

Final answers won’t be needed for about eight years, but the team hopes to keep costs below the $14.7 billion budgeted for the 2010 Census and to make it possible for at least some Americans to answer questions via the Internet.

“None of us can imagine doing a 2020 Census without an Internet option,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

Although he’s overseeing the current census, most of his tenure will be tied to 2020 preparations — and he’s pushing for a more efficient operation with fewer people.

“The easiest way to reduce costs in the census is to reduce manpower,” Groves said. “To the extent that we can reduce the number of census worker visits in 2020, we’re going to save a lot of money.”

Groves and his colleagues think they should wait until 2017 or 2018 to finalise plans on the Internet option to avoid making a technologically obsolete decision.

Lawmakers might force the bureau to move faster: Bills moving through the House and Senate with bipartisan support would require Groves to present plans on how to test and implement an Internet response option within six months of the bill’s passage.

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