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The United States Census Bureau is planning for the 2020 census by testing a number of digital tools that would allow for the next census to be done almost fully digitally.

One idea is to start sending census forms on the Internet rather than through mail. Another idea is to start giving smartphones or tablets to census takers so that their counts can be automatically uploaded into the system when the form is filled out.

For those that don’t know, the census is taken once every decade to help determine how to draw congressional maps and to help determine how much government spending on infrastructure and services is needed in select areas.

Considering the biggest expense during the last census involved paying people to move the information from the signed form into the census system, these moves to digital devices would save taxpayers billions of dollars.

“In 2020, we hope to use technology to reduce the overall cost of the census by potentially as much as $5 billion in taxpayer money compared with conducting it on paper (as in all past censuses).” – Census Director John Thompson

Therefore, the government is implementing two trials in Savannah, Georgia and Maricopa County, Arizona. In each city, census workers this year will ask people to respond on the Internet rather than filing out a piece of mail. If anyone doesn’t answer, the census workers will go to that residence and input answers directly into their smartphones.

This is not the first time that census workers have used digital devices for their work. A small number of census workers used iPhones to collect information in follow-up visits during the 2010 census. This time, census workers will use Android phones.

During the 2010 census, those who shared a home returned a census form just 74 percent of the time. That is about the same amount as the census from 2000 and 1990. This in the face of the crazy 2010 census conspiracy theories. Apparently, some felt that there was a link between the census and Japanese internment camps, some felt that taking the census meant your property would be taken away, some felt that the census was a secret way to “help United Nations personnel round people up after Obama lets foreign troops control the country.”

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