In the spring of 2020, every household across the country will receive an invitation to participate in the decennial census. Because the 2020 census is the first to be conducted primarily online, municipalities are preparing for new challenges as they work to make sure that all residents participate. Next Century Cities’ new resource, the 2020 Census Kiosk Toolkit, is a guide and resource bank to help communities easily implement census kiosk programs to ensure everyone is counted. 

The importance of an accurate census count cannot be overstated. Census data is used to make decisions at the local level about social services like schools and public transportation, to ensure fair Congressional representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, to direct trillions of dollars in federal and state funding, and more. Many of the populations that are hardest to count are already underrepresented and underserved in other ways, so intentional work on the part of local governments, community organizations, and advocates is necessary to ensure that hard to count populations are included in the data collection, which impacts every community’s access to equitable representation and resources. 

In developing this toolkit, Next Century Cities partnered with local leaders in the city and county of Los Angeles and Santa Clara County, California, each of which have established kiosk programs to reduce participation barriers for those without access to the internet or connected devices. A kiosk can be any public device dedicated to providing a means for individuals to complete the census online and made available in an accessible space, often through partnerships with community organizations. In many cases, staff will be available at the kiosk location to answer any questions residents might have about the census. 

Nicholas Kuwada, Manager, Office of the Census, Santa Clara County, Calif. said, “While the Bureau’s primary use of electronic forms will save costs and give many easier access, the jump away from paper will present a new set of challenges to many community members.  Even residents in the heart of Silicon Valley, who pride themselves on being a hub of innovative technological development, face issues of reliable access, trust of online resources and the lack of technical skills, particularly in hard-to-count communities.”

Of course, these kiosks can only be successful when paired with active outreach and community engagement around census participation. The toolkit includes a number of downloadable materials and resources that communities can adapt to create their own strategy for the 2020 census. 

View the Next Century Cities 2020 Census Kiosk Toolkit here