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Monday, May 3, 2010

The Census Is Every Ten Years...What About Testing It?

The Associated Press had an article recently entitled "GAO: Census has computer problem".
It turns out that they are running into a little glitch.  According to the article 'The bureau's Paper Based Operations Control System did not function reliably in tests and, despite hardware and software upgrades, "may not be able to perform as needed under full operational loads," the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report.'

So, my question is, if the Census is taken every 10 years, why weren't they able to get their Paper Based Operations Control System tested and working in time for the 2010 Census? It turns out that the Paper Based Operations Control System was developed in early 2008, so that is a little later in the cycle, but the question still remains that given 2 years to get it tested, debugged and working reliably, someone dropped the ball.

Besides normal debugging of the software, when you are running a massive data collection service, like the U.S. Census, load and performance testing has to be right up there in the 'to-do list'.

As a result, Census Director Robert Groves said that "We will get the census done with this system. The question is, will everyone be smiling when it is done."  He also said that they will be spending more money on staff in order to finish the work

So it looks like they will be using more people in this process (which in this bad economy is good for unemployed people who have gotten a job with the Census), but ultimately it shows how important proper QA is.  Had they put enough QA Power on this project, the count of the 2010 Census would be done way before it is time to start the 2020 Census!

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