UK Census website won't crash like others

Around  a quarter of respondents are expected to fill in their UK 2011 census form over the net as the department makes it available online for the first time. The census is being held on the 27th of March.

However, the Office for National Statistics has said that the site has been built to accommodate many more and it also seems that it’s learnt from the casualties of the UK tax site, which crashed when too many people decided to try and fill in forms online.

In a lengthly explanation of how it all works, deputy census director Ian Cope told TechEye:
 “A great deal of work has been done to monitor trends in internet usage and broadband take-up, to model the total number of online responses and their day-to-day and hour-by-hour profile.

“However, there is no online service in the UK that is a direct comparator to the census. Canada, New Zealand and Australia all offered an online census in 2006, with online response rates between seven percent and 18 percent. We have taken account of this experience and also of our own 2009 rehearsal experience. ONS’s expectation of 25 percent, with the ability to accommodate many more, is in line with the expectations in these other countries.”

However, the census could be anticipating problems, with Cope adding: ” If, however, the online option proves even more popular than we’ve anticipated, we will simply ask new users to come back later while making sure that those who have already logged on can continue. We will monitor the user levels closely at all times. We have carried out volume and performance testing to make sure that the system can handle the sustained loads expected.

If you’ve already had a hard copy of the census come through the post, you’ll know how long winded it looks, however, those clever enough to have spotted the internet access code on the front can complete the questions with “one simple click”.

Cope told TechEye that the organisation had “already received feedback from the public that they find the online census quick and simple.”

He added: “Our research shows that it takes about 30 minutes for a family of four to
add their details.

And he also moved to dispel qualms from disability groups that the site isn’t accessible, claiming the department had worked  closely with the RNIB to make sure that the site is accessible for those with visual impairments, which will make it easier for them to complete
their census independently.

The organisation also would not talk about costs claiming that website was only part of the census operation and it was therefore difficult to separate out.

He also added that it believed the 56 languages were sufficient enough to reflect the growing diversity of the UK.