ABS puts eCensus up for tender

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) wants to hear from IT specialists interested in developing an online form for the next Census in 2006.

Dubbed the ‘eCensus’, the solution is to be developed by industry vendors to cover the provision of infrastructure, including hardware and communications.

Census Development Director, David Nauenburg, told ARN the request for expressions of interest closes on July 30.

He said the ABS wanted to attract high performing organisations.

“The winning organisation will provide the most effective eCensus solution, which will be reliable, high quality and a secure option for the community,” he said.

Nauenburg said that security is a big concern for the ABS especially after the recent breaches of banking and finance web sites.

“Users that are concerned about Internet security will still have the option of completing a hard copy [of the Census],” he said. “Internet security is of utmost importance to the ABS.”

The aim of the eCensus is to give the public the choice of completing the 2006 Census form on the Internet.

The eCensus had the potential to improve data collection, Nauenburg said.

“This is especially true where our collectors face challenges in collecting completed forms, such as from secure apartment buildings and in rural Australia,” he said.

“Ultimately, an efficient collection method leads to faster processing and this means the community and decision-makers have access to the results earlier.”

Key eCensus challenges to face the successful tenderer include:

-- A "one shot" chance - the system must meet the requirements of the Australian public on Census night (August 8, 2006).

-- Security - maintaining security of the data during the entire process so that only the respondent and the ABS have access to the data.

-- High load issues - potentially one million households completing their forms via the Internet on Census night.

-- System integration - compatibility with census processing and field communication systems.

-- Accessibility - making the form accessible to people with the lowest standard of Internet connection and those with disabilities such as vision impairment.