2902.0 - Census Update (Newsletter), Jul 2000  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/07/2000   
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Dress Rehearsal in the Field

The 2001 Census Dress Rehearsal is currently underway and is the last live test before census night in August 2001. The Dress Rehearsal will involve a total of 40,000 dwellings within the Melbourne area, and from communities surrounding Mildura. Procedures differ between urban and rural areas, and thus the Dress Rehearsal must include both types of communities to effectively test all census procedures. The Dress Rehearsal will allow the ABS to test its systems and introduce a number of new elements into the process.

There have been a number of changes introduced in the field side of this year's census test. One of them is the introduction of a new training package for field staff. The Dress Rehearsal will allow elements of the new package to be tested for the first time and any necessary improvements made before the 2001 Census.

The Census Field System is also being tested. This system manages the administrative tasks relating to field employees, such as job applicants, selection, managing employee workloads and tax. Group leaders for the Dress Rehearsal have been recruited and trained on site in Melbourne.

The forms being used in the Melbourne and Mildura district Dress Rehearsal are identical to those that are to be used in the 2001 Census. Printing of the 2001 Census forms will begin shortly.

The Dress Rehearsal will also fine tune the processing of census forms through the use of an optical scanner that contains word recognition technology. If words and phrases are only partially read, a repair system is used that will allow accurate identification by looking at:

  • surrounding words and letters; and
  • the context in which it is used.

If a word cannot be read through the repair system, the forms are then manually processed which represents a major segment of the processing workforce. By fine tuning this technology, there will be less manual processing with reduced workload, costs and room for error.

The processing of the 2001 Census will start in September 2001 in Sydney.

However, the processing of the dress rehearsal will take place in the ABS Central Office in Canberra, due to the increased activity in Sydney during the Olympic Games. Normally the Dress Rehearsal aims to rehearse every detail of the census, including the location of processing.

The effect of not being able to process the forms in the same city for both the Dress Rehearsal and actual census is that elements such as recruitment of processing staff cannot be fully tested.

Check out the next edition of Census Update to find out the effectiveness of the Dress Rehearsal.