How the Census moved a nation to online by default


Incremental improvement when you only have one shot every five years makes every decision critical. The head of Census talks to The Mandarin about switching to online by default.

If the Census team had stuck to what worked in the past, that trajectory would have blown out their 2016 Census costs by $105 million, used 327,000 kilograms more paper, 3500 litres more glue and 1100 kilograms more ink.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics struggled to recruit the 29,000 door-knocking collectors used during the last Census in 2011, and projections indicated they’d need almost twice that number (54,000) this year.

Duncan Young

Duncan Young

“Our current approach was unsustainable,” says Duncan Young, national program manager of the Census of Population and Housing. It’s his name at the bottom of the letters that every Australian household received in the weeks leading up to tonight’s snapshot.

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