Data Processing Centre moves house
On 1 July this year, the ABS formally took custody of the building that will house the Data Processing Centre (DPC) for the 2006 Census. Located in the heart of Melbourne, the DPC will employ around 860 people during peak processing time.
This ends an evaluation process during which several possible locations around Australia were considered. It is important for the DPC to be located within easy travel of a large pool of potential employees. In previous Censuses, the DPC was located in Sydney.
Once all Census forms have been collected, they are transported under secure arrangements to the DPC to be scanned and processed. It is here that data on the millions of Census forms is transformed into a single computer data file that is then used by ABS staff to create Census products and services for users. Name and address information is destroyed once processing is complete and is not stored on this file.
The first step in processing is known as precapture, and involves the checking of forms to ensure key fields have been completed. Any damaged or badly presented forms are transcribed to ensure they will pass successfully through the scanning process.
The forms are then scanned to capture an image of each page of each form. In 2006, for the first time, the Collector Record Books will also be scanned and the data captured. The use of images of forms dramatically reduces the need for the movement of large quantities of paper around the DPC.
Written responses are scanned using Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) to automatically allocate a classification code based on the response provided. If a code can not be automatically determined, then manual intervention must take place.
So that Census data can be released as soon as possible, processing is split into two stages and the release of Census data is in two phases.
In the first, relatively simple to process topics such as age, sex and religion are released, while the second release contains topics such as industry, qualifications and occupation which require more complex processing and manual intervention.
When the forms are no longer needed for processing, they are pulped and turned into recycled paper and cardboard. The images of the forms are also destroyed.
The DPC is currently being used to process forms from the Dress Rehearsal that was held in early August. This will allow the systems and programs to be tested and any last minute problems ironed out before the processing of around 10 million forms in next year’s Census.