To our friends at Treehugger, please look away as we report that the Census Bureau is ditching plans to go digital and will return to its sinful pencil-pushing, paper-crazy roots. Originally, the Bureau planned for workers to use 500,000 wireless handheld devices from Harris Corp. as a replacement for the paperwork used to collect information from Americans who do not respond to the census. The $1.3 billion program looked great on, well, paper, but was ultimately derailed by hardware issues and incompetence.
The biggest issue with the Harris handhelds was that they were more paperweight than PDA. They were too big (slightly larger than a cell phone), didn't transmit data very well, and at one point during testing there were 417 outstanding technical requirements not being met. "Reverting back to paper, which we've done in the past and know we can do, lessens the risk," says Stephen Buckner, a Census Bureau spokesman.
The silver lining to this story? The Bureau will still take delivery of 151,000 handsets "to check residential street addresses using the Global Positioning System." Kids these days call that Google Maps, but if the government wants to dole out billions for something we can do for free, then who is Gizmodo to argue? [The Washington Post]