The Harris Corporation has won a five-year, $600 million contract to update and automate the way the U.S. Census Bureau collects data. It's one of the largest contracts Harris won in recent years -- and the company's largest ever from the Census Bureau. The new contract will help revolutionize how census information is collected.
In the past, census employees -- many of them temporary workers hired specifically for information-gathering -- went door-to-door with paper address lists, maps, questionnaires and notepads. Such a system, Harris officials said, resulted in relatively high labor costs and potential errors because of the sheer magnitude of the job, which can see nearly a half-million workers combing areas to get the needed figures.
For the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau plans to use automated systems to quickly capture information from interviews. That is designed to reduce the need for paper-based processing, improve efficiency and accuracy, and reduce costs.
With the new systems, every enumerator (census-taker) will carry a handheld computer to immediately send the information to central offices, updating statistics in near-real-time, and getting that data integrated from other sources. Previously, the process could take hours or days.
The equipment is expected to be deployed this year or next, well in advance of the requirement in 2010.
Harris beat out fellow high-tech heavyweights General Dynamics Corporation and Northrop Grumman Corporation in the two-year competition. Originally, eight companies went after the Census contract, which is called the Field Data Collection Automation program.
The $600 million Census Bureau contract is one of Harris Corporation's largest in the past two decades, and its largest ever for census-related work.
The year 2000 census only cost about $300 million, half the anticipated price of the census to be conducted ten years later.