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.

Posts Tagged ‘hands free’

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Census Workers in Danger

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Harris Corp's technology

Throughout the ongoing “address canvassing” in preparation for the 2010 Census, the lives of the 140,000 field employees who took part in this operation were oftentimes put in jeopardy. In acts that are just as dangerous as using cell phones or writing text messages while driving, these workers were forced to look at the small screens of their handheld computers, commonly known as HHCs (the ones manufactured by Harris Corp. as part of the $600 million debacle that will likely be talked about for decades as one of the most pathetic partnerships of the U.S. Government with private industry) to find and mark addresses while driving. There is only one word to describe this situation: DANGEROUS.

Not only can driver distraction harm the employees, but it also has the potential to harm individuals, animals, and property in the vicinity of the distracted drivers. If the handheld computers had been built with a speaker that shouted directions (like any consumer GPS device), the employees would not be in this perilous situation.

It shocks the MyTwoCensus team that no individual from the Census Bureau or Harris Corp. ever considered the safety of the people who must operate these devices. Given that many 2010 Census employees are senior citizens, tasking them to drive while operating a computer is a recipe for disaster.

Update: The Census Bureau does its best to discourage employees from driving while using the HHCs, but these rules are not always followed in local offices throughout the country.

Note: Please e-mail MyTwoCensus @ MyTwoCensus.com if you are aware of any situations where car accidents or other unnecessarily dangerous situations have resulted from driver distraction due to the use of the Harris Corp’s handheld computers. MyTwoCensus has already heard reports of employees involved in fatal car accidents, and we are hoping to investigate whether the HHC played a role in these deaths.

Notes on a Scandal Part 1: The Curious Case of Antonio Sanchez…

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Earlier this week, we received a tip from an anonymous Census Bureau employee in Westchester, New York. The employee informed us that on May 1 at 8:59am, he/she and dozens of his/her fellow field workers received a text message sent to their HHCs (handheld computers) that started with the line, “Please remember to drive safely…” and ended on “with great sadness we regret to inform you that two enumerators have been killed in fatal car accidents.”

Now, this text message is problematic on many levels. First, after searching through thousands of news articles, we have been unable to uncover any information about Census Bureau employees perishing in recent accidents. When we inquired with the Census Bureau, they also said that they were unaware of any accidents. If there were accidents, why haven’t they been reported? And if there have not been accidents, why are Census Bureau employees using scare tactics and lying to field workers?

MyTwoCensus successfully contacted the person who sent out the text message in question,  Antonio Sanchez, who serves as an Assistant Manager of Technology in the Westchester County  office of the Census Bureau.  However, since Census Bureau employees are not permitted to speak to the media (can you say “violation of the first amendment?”) Sanchez told us that he couldn’t discuss anything and that we should call Washington if we had any questions…

So that’s just what we did, and we’re waiting to hear back from Census Bureau HQ Washington on this issue…

Presumably, as a technology expert, Sanchez was directed by a superior to send out this message, so we don’t blame him for disseminating the information. However, until we get to the bottom of this most peculiar and disturbing incident, our investigation is still wide open.