Alex Crowe

ABS trial looks to avoid another #censusfail | The Canberra Times

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Canberra households will be among the 100,000 taking part in a trial next month aimed at detecting any potential shortfalls ahead of the 2021 census, as the government looks to avoid a repeat of 2016’s “#censusfail”. The Bureau of Statistics will call on Gungahlin residents to take part in the voluntary trial. They predict the majority of households will do so online. Outside of the territory, PwC Australia – the contractor appointed to replace IBM following the 2016 bungle – will select representations of the population from Karratha to Warrnambool on October 27. The bureau awarded the $35.1 million contract to PwC following an open search, after its 2016 decision to engage IBM without market testing was blamed for the online crash in 2016. The national survey website was shut down for two days after being hit with four distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which occur when hackers send multiple requests to a site with the aim of exceeding its capacity to respond. The Australian Signals Directorate was brought in to investigate the attack, while a subsequent review found the bureau and contractor IBM had not adequately planned for the crisis. As part of its measures to avoid DDoS attacks, the bureau will work alongside the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Digital Transformation Agency to deliver the 2021 census. Participants will also be given a couple of weeks to fill out their details, rather than the past approach of knocking it over in one night. The estimated cost of the 2021 census is $526 million over five years. In addition to the new digital platform, the 2021 national census will include two new topics to better understand the impact of long-term health issues and help identify Australia’s veterans. ABS census executive director Andrew Henderson said government departments like the Department of Veterans’ Affairs currently interact with about 200,000 veterans, but it is estimated there are about 600,000 veterans in Australia. “Australia doesn’t really have a good handle on where they are or what their circumstances are,” Mr Henderson said. “Whether they’re working, whether they’re living in regional Australia or an urban environment, all those things really impact the way we support them into the future.” READ ALSO: Gungahlin residents selected to take part in the trial will receive instructions on how to complete the test online or by paper in their mailbox in mid-October. In consideration of COVID-19 precautions, the bureau will not have any staff on the field for the trial in Victoria, and it will be a contact-free test in Sydney. Mr Henderson said current precautions will help identify best practices for minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission when the actual census is held in August 2021. “At this stage it’s full steam ahead for the census next year,” he said. “The US census is currently under way and Canada went ahead with its too. Some of the countries have chosen to defer their census but we’re working on the basic that we’ll be going ahead.” Around 97 per cent of Australians took part in the compulsory 2016 census, which takes place every five years. The first census was in 1911, and it was originally taken every 10 years. Mr Henderson said full participation in the voluntary trial would help create a seamless census in August. “If you’re in an area that’s been selected, you represent a lot of other Australians – so it’s not just about your household,” he said.

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