Z-Tech and SpeechWorks Assisting Census Bureau with Data Collection
ROCKVILLE, MD and BOSTON, MA - The U.S. Census Bureau recently began testing Internet and phone-in options as alternative means of responding to the National Census. Testing of the new response technologies is being conducted in anticipation of their more widespread use in the 2010 Census. Z-Tech Corporation, an information technology services provider headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, headed the development of the systems, in partnership with SpeechWorks International Inc. (Nasdaq: SPWX) of Boston, Massachusetts, and CPT International of Marietta, Georgia. The 2003 test, launched at the end of January, tests traditional paper, Internet and voice response methods for completing the Census short form. The speech-enabled survey option asks callers the same questions concerning age, race and homeownership that appear on the traditional mail-in form. In addition to the speech-enabled survey, the project also provided for development of an Internet-based survey option that allows users to fill out the Census form on line and submit it electronically. Z-Tech is providing overall project planning and management as well as the components of the Internet solution and is using speech recognition technology from SpeechWorks International for phone-in survey response. CPT International is providing the host facility for the speech recognition equipment as well as the reporting data. In 2000, 26 percent of occupied homes did not return their census form. The Bureau had to hire additional staff to visit approximately 42 million homes that didn't initially respond. The current initiative is an attempt to provide a technological solution to increase the initial response rate. The new media options are part of the Census Bureau's efforts to increase its response rate for Census 2010 and are currently being tested along with other traditional paper response options among 110,000 homes nationwide. The Bureau will track the number of completed responses and the results will be used to help prepare for further testing of the technologies in 2004. "The U.S. Census Bureau is the government's premier data collection agency," stated Verl Zanders, President and CEO of Z-Tech. "Expanding the high tech capabilities of the Bureau can help the Bureau collect the most statistically and demographically accurate information in a cost-effective manner." Johnnie Pearson, Vice President of Internet Solutions at Z-Tech, further noted, "This collaborative project allows Z-Tech and its partners to help the Census Bureau test procedures and find solutions for facilitating data gathering from households that may have failed to respond in the past." "We believe that speech recognition can help the Census Bureau control costs and support its existing mail-in campaign by increasing the initial response rate through a hosted speech system," added Steve Chambers, chief marketing officer at SpeechWorks. "Speech is easy to use and the telephone is ubiquitous, which makes it an attractive channel for people to report their census data from the comfort of their home."