The Florida House of Representatives is making one final push over the next month for its state residents to be counted in the 2010 Census, through its MyFloridaCensus (http://www.myfloridacensus.gov) website and Web-based application. MyFloridaCensus is an innovative component in Florida’s overall effort to ensure a complete count of residents during the ongoing 2010 Census, supplementing door-to-door canvassing, which ends nationwide July 10.
MyFloridaCensus is hosted in the Windows Azure cloud platform and runs using Microsoft Silverlight for cross-browser compatibility. With the support of a Bing Maps interface, the collective technology allows visitors to share their experiences with the 2010 Census and build a social user-generated experience around the once-per-decade count. In turn, the Florida House provides the U.S. Census Bureau, state and local governments, and citizens with dynamic feedback and visual representations of that feedback. Unlike most traditional government websites, MyFloridaCensus offers Floridians the opportunity to take part in the gathering of information, and thus affords individual citizens the opportunity to speak for the betterment of their communities.
“Once Florida residents share the census impact in their communities, we use MyFloridaCensus.gov to work with the U.S. Census Bureau to account for streets, neighborhoods and communities that may otherwise be missed in the 2010 Census,” said Florida state Rep. Dean Cannon.
Basic Needs, New Tools
Government agencies are more frequently being asked to communicate with their constituencies with the vigor and versatility of the private sector. The combination of Azure, Silverlight and Bing Maps gives the Florida House the ability to build a dynamic front-end user experience supported by a back-end system that optimizes for flexibility and can satisfy heavy peak demand usage. Equally important, MyFloridaCensus provides a successful proof of concept for future cloud-based public service endeavors. In 2011, the Florida House will transition MyFloridaCensus into an online tool for the public to participate in the process of redrawing political boundary lines (redistricting).
“Florida is not only on the leading edge of engaging its citizens on Census participation, but the Windows Azure solution they’ve chosen to build has broader applicability for future resident engagement,” said Gail Thomas-Flynn, vice president of State and Local Government at Microsoft. “More of our state customers are following this approach and moving unique and ongoing citizen services to the cloud platforms that can scale up and down according to need.”
The Florida House chose to host the application in a cloud environment because application use is expected to be high for only a few critical weeks and then gradually fall off over time, until the launch of a new application in 2011. Windows Azure hosting provides the ability to expand and contract the use of server space, helping reduce the cost to taxpayers when the site is not in peak use.
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