Census 2020 Hackathon

This event was part of Digital Inclusion Week, a national effort to highlight the importance of computer and broadband access for all.

Last Sunday, the Data Team was thrilled to participate in the Census 2020 Hackathon at the Central Library in DTLA. We joined the Los Angeles Public Library, the Mayor’s Office of the Census, the City’s Information Technology Agency, the County of Los Angeles, and innovative Angelenos to explore how to encourage Countywide participation in the upcoming U.S. Census.

Why Count?

Los Angeles County is the hardest to count in the entire country. Every ten years the Census Bureau takes on the incredible task of counting every person living in the United States. This count determines allocations of funding and power that will have impacts long beyond the time between each census. LA County receives $7 billion in Federal and State funding which supports important programs like transportation, job training, child welfare programs, section 8 housing, medicaid, and older adult programs. We also risk losing representation in Congress, like we did in 2010 when California was just 13,000 individuals short of gaining a seat. The stakes are real, making it critical for Angelenos to see fair representation in 2020.

“The Census is a fundamental aspect of our democracy. It kicks off a series of processes in our country that determine everything from voting to political representation to the federal funds we receive to provide social services to our residents.”

Maria de la Luz Garcia, Census 2020 Director for Mayor Garcetti

Why This Year is Different

The upcoming U.S. Census is unique because it will be affected by two new challenges. For the first time ever, the census will be administered online, making the digital divide a pressing issue. The upcoming census will also include a question on citizenship which is expected to impact response rates in Los Angeles (home to the country’s second largest immigrant population).

Our Solutions

With these challenges in mind, Hackathon attendees formed three teams and set out to come up with the best ways to make the census more accessible and engaging. The results were three unique projects with ideas as varied as the backgrounds of the attendees. Some concepts included utilizing new media like VR and AR to share information about the census, shifting awareness efforts to engage new audiences by involving social media influencers and creating cultural experience out of participation, bringing the census itself to new mediums such as text- and call-in options, and utilizing data analysis to find communities where they are and delivery resources through their own local institutions. Each team presented their project to a panel of judges who evaluated projects based on use of data, innovation and creativity, impact, and feasibility and sustainability. The winning project, “Getting Our Fair Share”, included a Kiosk placement tool to help community members leverage existing infrastructure and a Kiosk Finder application to connect the community to these local resources. The team will have the opportunity to present their ideas to the Countywide Census 2020 Complete Count Committee meeting later this month where local leaders can integrate these insights into their strategy to count everyone in LA.