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Microsoft in your community

Using public-private partnerships to drive 2020 census responses in Phoenix

The 2020 census will be the first in the United States offering the option of online or telephone-based responses. While this change provides residents with additional response options, it presents possible challenges in communities lacking technological resources. It’s vital to obtain accurate census data, as it informs public funding levels for roads, schools, and other resources, as well as determines the number of seats each state has in Congress. The City of Phoenix developed a unique, high-tech approach to improving outreach in typically undercounted areas.

Deploying mobile outreach

In 2019, Microsoft contributed $30,000 to go toward census outreach and preparation in the City of Phoenix. Specifically, the city is implementing six mobile census units outfitted with Microsoft Surface tablets, Cisco network equipment, and cybersecurity measures. These vans (repurposed Dial-a-ride vehicles) are ADA-accessible and will provide outreach to hard-to-reach, hard-to-count communities. With the 2020 census on the horizon, outreach will run from September 2019 through June 2020.

Educating on the value of census data

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts an enumeration of all people living in the country. The census data collected determines the allocation of billions in federal funds to local communities. To further reach local communities, municipalities develop targeted outreach plans to inform, educate, and motivate residents to participate in the census.

Because of the new mobile outreach strategy in Phoenix, branded iCount 2020, community members will learn about the census and better understand how its data is used. AI technology, built on Microsoft Azure, will be used to help identify neighborhoods where the vehicles are most needed. Through the mobile units, residents can complete and submit their census form, then and there. The vans are “census-branded” so they’re easy to spot. In addition to visiting undercounted  neighborhoods, the mobile units will be on site at community venues and sporting events.

The mobile census units will also partake in workforce development outreach, informing communities about the employment opportunities that come along with the census. The vans’ connectivity will provide residents with a means of applying for jobs on the spot.

“This public-private partnership with Cisco and Microsoft is the first known census partnership nationwide aimed at bridging the potential of a digital divide in anticipation of the nation’s first-ever online census,” said City of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.