My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Archive for October, 2010

Note to America: Your 2010 Census data is being handed over to private citizens

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

The Census Bureau has long touted that it keeps data private and confidential for 70 years after it is gathered. This concept proved to be false as recently as 2004, when the Census Bureau didn’t put up a fight as it turned over information about Arab-Americans to other government agencies.

The Census Bureau also readily hands over data to research centers at universities, both public and private. This is a little-known program that has not been mentioned in the press. While I may personally agree that universities with data access can provide benefits for society, I stand against the Census Bureau handing over this data on the principle that  the American people have not agreed that the Census Bureau can use their data in this way.

Take a look at this recent Census Bureau press release that highlights the 10+ sites around the country where universities have access to your data:

The Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau, in
partnership with the University of Minnesota, has opened a new Research
Data Center (RDC) laboratory on the university’s campus in Minneapolis.

RDCs are Census Bureau facilities where researchers from academia,
federal agencies and other institutions with approved projects receive
restricted access to unpublished Census Bureau demographic and economic
microdata files. These secure facilities are staffed by Census Bureau
employees and meet stringent physical and computer security requirements
for access to confidential data.

“The Minnesota Research Data Center will serve researchers from a broad
range of academic disciplines, with particular strengths in demography and
public health,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “The Minnesota
RDC will contribute not only by providing researchers with assistance in
using the demographic, business and health data but also by developing
improved or new data collections.”

“The research lab is housed in the Minnesota Population Center (MPC),
which has a tradition of collaboration with the Census Bureau and other
statistical agencies. As a world leader in the improvement, dissemination
and analysis of census data, MPC is equipped to make unique contributions
to the RDC program,” Groves said.

Before gaining access to the information at RDCs, researchers must
submit proposals to the RDC and the Census Bureau for approval. The review
process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit
and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, RDC operating procedures,
strict security and strong legal safeguards assure the confidentiality of
these data as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full
background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the
confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to
significant financial and legal penalties.

The Minnesota Census Research Data Center joins similar centers that
have been established in Boston; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles; Washington;
Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Durham, N.C. The
center at Berkeley has a branch at Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif., while the center at Durham has recently opened a branch at Research
Triangle Park, N.C. An additional center is scheduled to open at a site in
Atlanta in spring 2011.

BS Alert: PBOCS system creators claim that the 2010 Census operations were successful…Lies, lies, and more lies!

Monday, October 25th, 2010

To any investors out there, this is as much of a bull-shit alert as I can possibly give you. As MyTwoCensus has repeatedly noted, and the Census Bureau has repeatedly acknowledged, the PBOCS systems used during 2010 Census operations were complete failures that created problems resulting in severely delayed operations (thousands of workers sat around waiting for assignments) and mismanaged data (2010 Census forms had to be manually imported at a snail’s pace, and who knows how many of these never made it into the system at all…). But the PR teams below state otherwise:

Rally helps ICS deliver mandated requirements 50% faster using 1/3 staff of previous efforts and demonstrates best practices for improving U.S. government’s outsourced IT operations

WASHINGTON and BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ — Rally®, the leader in Agile application lifecycle management (ALM), and ICS, a proven 8(a) information technology contractor, today announced that Rally’s Agile ALM platform played a central role in the success of ICS’s work in support of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 decennial census.

Rally Unlimited Edition enabled the 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team to deliver the Census Bureau’s paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software over 50% faster than delivery times of the 2000 or the 1990 census software, with just 1/3 of the staff. By tracking its software development process with Rally, ICS not only delivered software requirements and met immovable deadlines, but exceeded expectations by delivering an additional software module.

“The efficiencies we realized with Rally are a perfect example of the change being driven within the government to improve the performance of IT operations across the board,” said Khurram Shah, ICS founding partner and chief strategy officer. “The velocity and productivity gains Rally brought to the 2010 Census Agile ICS development team enabled us to deliver applications that processed more data at a much faster rate than during previous Census operations.”

About the United States Census

The United States Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution to gather statistics on the U.S. population. The data collected helps determine the number of seats states have in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the 2010 Census, this data also helps communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year.

“Because Census deadlines are mandated by the Constitution, there’s no question that the execution, performance and timing of our software development operation was critical,” said Erika Peace, technical project manager at ICS. “Rally provided the right tools at the right time so we could cost-effectively deliver technology more accurately aligned with our client’s business objectives.”

Challenges

Software development requirements are defined by the mandate that decennial U.S. Census figures are based on actual counts of every person dwelling in U.S. residential structures. Delivery dates are immovable, as the Census Bureau is required by law to report the nation’s population and the allotment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for each state by the end of December. The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team also had to adapt to changing requirements and unique circumstances, such as the challenges around accurately counting “group quarters,” like college students living in dormitories.

Solution and Results

The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team brought in Agile development practices to deliver 12 key requirements for the Census Bureau’s paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software. By implementing Rally Unlimited Edition to provide the real-time status, progress and quality of the Census Bureau’s software development processes, the Agile ICS team over-delivered ahead of schedule – completing all requirements in just 18 months with just 1/3 of the staff.

“By taking advantage of Rally’s Agile ALM platform, the 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team was able to help the Census Bureau improve the speed and accuracy of the 2010 census-taking process in response to the ever-increasing population of the United States,” said Ryan Martens, Rally’s founder and CTO. “Demonstrating that Agile practices meet federal schedule performance index requirements allows Rally’s Agile ALM platform to align with government projects.”

In order to achieve critical requirements within the allotted timeframe, every incremental build resulted in shippable, working software. The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team used Rally to meet changing requirements, build incrementally and turn deliverables around quickly. Requirements, acceptance tests and source code changes were tracked in Rally’s Agile ALM platform, giving the team rapid feedback on the status and quality of each build.

Rally’s powerful reporting capabilities were critical for providing data analysis, progress reports and status updates to government officials on a daily basis. Providing real-time visibility to senior government officials was vital for making informed decisions, assessing scope change and tracking team progress to delivery.

While addressing the National Press Club, Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert Groves summed up the importance of the PBOCS software delivered by ICS and how well it was performing when he said, “This software system, called the Paper-Based Operation Control System (PBOCS), performs various functions that are really crucial for the non-response follow-up phase…we’re processing at rates that we never imagined we could process.” (1)

Government Agile Success Tour

Rally is hosting a special edition of its Agile Success Tour on October 21, 2010 in Bedford, MA for those working in Federal contracting environments. This free, interactive half-day seminar is intended for anyone who is adopting or considering adopting Agile development practices for government software projects. Northrop Grumman and Rally Software will discuss real-life Agile implementation stories from the Department of Defense, civilian agencies, and state and local governments.

About ICS

ICS is a certified 8(a), Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) founded in 2003 by seasoned technology professionals.  ICS has proven an innovative designing experience that is client-focused, developing quality solutions in mission critical environments in the public and private sector.

ICS is comprised of experienced management and technically agile professionals with diverse competencies, creating a collaborative program and project management environment for clients. The size of the organization, coupled with the focused range of services performed, enables the company to rapidly source and retain thoroughly trained, certified professionals with tested, measurable performance and proven experience.

About Rally

Rally is the recognized leader in Agile application lifecycle management (ALM). We are dedicated to helping organizations embrace Agile and Lean development practices that increase the pace of innovation and improve product quality. According to a study by QSM Associates, software-driven companies that rely on Rally’s Agile ALM products and services are 50% faster to market and 25% more productive than industry averages. The company’s experienced services group, including training through Agile University, guides companies through the organizational change required to become innovative, Agile businesses. Rally’s products, including AgileZen, currently support more than 3,000 corporate customers, 76,000 projects and 138,000 users in 60 countries. For more information, visit www.rallydev.com.

(1) Dr. Groves briefing at the National Press Club on June 2nd, 2010; transcript available here.

Rally, the Rally logo, Rally Software Development, and AgileZen are trademarks of Rally Software Development Corp. Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Census Bureau Press Release: Nation Achieves 74 Percent Final Mail Participation in 2010 Census

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Editor’s Note: The Census Bureau spent $340 million on ads for the 2010 Census…way more than it spent in 2000, while it achieved the same response rate.

Here’s the press release:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that 74 percent of households in the United States filled out and mailed back their 2010 Census questionnaire, matching the final mail participation rate achieved in the 2000 Census. Twenty-two states, 1,553 counties, and 278 cities and townships with a population of 50,000 or more met or exceeded their 2000 Census participation rates. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also met or exceeded their rates.

The final 74 percent mail participation rate includes an additional 2 percent of households that mailed back their forms after April 27, when the U.S. Census Bureau announced a 72 percent participation rate. While these forms were received too late to prevent a visit by a census taker, they were included in the final tally. “We are very pleased with the public’s response to the 2010 Census, and these results demonstrate that the public stepped up to be counted,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

Approximately 47 million households that did not mail back a census form by the deadline were visited by census takers in person as part of a series
of operations and methods to ensure as complete a count as possible. The Census Bureau either received a form or attempted repeated visits to 100
percent of the identified housing units in the country. “As the law requires, we look forward to reporting to the nation by Dec. 31 the national and state populations as well as the allocation of seats to each state in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Groves said.
The final mail participation rates for the nation, states, counties, cities, towns and even the neighborhood level can now be found on the 2010 Census website (http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/2010textview.php).

Below are final mail participation results from the 20 largest cities nationwide based on 2008 population estimates.

Highest Mail Participation Rates: Cities with Populations Over 100,000

Cities                   Percent
Livonia, Mich.             88
Rochester, Minn.           83
Centennial, Colo.          83
Sterling Heights, Mich.       83
Naperville, Ill.           83
Olathe, Kan.               82
Arvada, Colo.              82
Cary, N.C.                 82
Hialeah, Fla.              82
Madison, Wis.              82
Thousand Oaks, Calif.         81
Warren, Mich.              81
Overland Park, Kan.           81
Boise, Idaho               81
Billings, Mont.            80
Ann Arbor, Mich.           80
Independence, Mo.          80
Sioux Falls, S.D.          80
Chesapeake, Va.            80
Lincoln, Neb.              80

2010 Census oversight team wins award

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

The Commerce Department Inspector General has been recognized for an award by the professional organization that unites the Inspector Generals of all government agencies…Here’s the brief from Ed O’Keefe:

The Commerce Department’s 2010 Census Oversight Team will be honored for “exemplary service” for a recurring series of reports on the planning, coordination, and execution of the largest decennial census in American history. (Example: Census workers who did no work were paid.)

Both the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office both did some excellent work in the past few years by shedding light on major inefficiencies related to the 2010 Census and doing their best to correct many debacles.

A funny one…

Monday, October 18th, 2010

We’ll keep it light today with this 2010 Census cartoon.

Note: The malware warnings for MyTwoCensus were/are erroneous. We have confirmed with Google that there are no problems on this site.

MyTwoCensus tech problems

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Using Google Chrome, I just received a malware warning. Can other users out there let us know if you are also receiving these warnings and what browsers/versions you are using?  Note that we are on top of this and trying to correct the issue ASAP.

Many thanks to the Census Bureau for alerting us to this problem.

Update to photo contest: The $500 photo of 2010 Census WASTE is here!

Friday, October 8th, 2010

The following photo of 2010 Census waste comes from a local census office in a major city. To protect the employee involved, I will not say which region until that person grants me permission to do so. Feel free to write your captions for this photo in the comments section below. Be aware, there is no Title 13 or PII-protected information in this photo. We are also curiously wondering why some leftover items have been donated to schools while others headed straight to the dump, depending on which office was responsible. MyTwoCensus is awaiting the Census Bureau’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was filed a couple of months back that further examines the 2010 Census waste disposal contracts. Remember, a picture’s worth a thousand words: