US authorities to undertake once-in-a-decade census

Today is Census Day in the US, a date meant to raise awareness about the country’s constitutionally required, ten-year population

us census

Photo: Ben Torres

Today is Census Day in the US, a date meant to raise awareness about the country’s constitutionally required, ten-year population count.

The 2020 Census, which has been largely digitised though an outside contractor, will determine representation in the US Congress, direct hundreds of billions in federal funding and provide data that will impact communities for the coming decade. However, the digitisation process has faced substantial cost overruns, and many experts fear the process is vulnerable to hacking and disruption. Security sources suggest the website was hacked from Russia-based IP addresses during tests in 2018.

The Census Bureau has been working with the Department of Homeland Security and private technology companies to secure census data, as well as collaborating with Google, Facebook and Twitter to combat disinformation threats. A disruption of the data collection process could result in skewed census figures, numbers that are relied upon by both government agencies and the private sector for research and strategy.

Between security vulnerabilities, the implementation of a new collection system and the instability resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Census is expected to have some irregularities and deficiencies. It is possible that minority populations, rural Americans and other demographics with less online access will be undercounted, leading to a misallocation of funds and, possibly, congressional representation for those communities.

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