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U.S. Census Bureau Reaps Awards from MySQL-based Web Sites


Most Americans are aware that every ten years, the United States Census Bureau conducts a massive Census of the 105 million U.S. households to collect updated national demographic information. The Census data determines critical population information such as size, growth and geographic densities, as well as other vital statistics. What many people don't know, is that the U.S. Census Bureau also creates and manages web sites that serve as highly-accessible resources for anyone looking for just about any kind of national or local statistic.

The Census Bureau's web development team has relied on the MySQL database server, as well as other open-source software such as Perl, Apache, Linux and PHP, to develop these highly-acclaimed and extraordinarily successful web sites. In fact, one of the MySQL-run sites won the prestigious Census Bureau's Director's Award for Innovation in 2001, and the Bureau's web development team, which is led by Rachael LaPorte Taylor, senior technology architect for FedStats.gov at the Census Bureau, and Lisa Nyman, senior Internet technology architect, has begun serving as informal open-source consultants to their entire organization (of over 5,000 employees).

The Census Bureau has a site license for the Oracle RDBMS, but LaPorte Taylor notes that, "We chose to use the MySQL database server because of its ease of installation, maintainability, configuration and speed. I've been using open source software since I got into the business, which was in '92," she continued. "MySQL has also provided us with huge cost savings, which we have been able to funnel into other resources."

"FedStats" is a MySQL-powered portal to statistics produced by the Federal government. Features include a display of the U.S.'s leading financial and economic indicators at a glance. Users can use the site's powerful linking and searching capabilities to track economic and population trends, health care costs, aviation safety, foreign trade and more. With the ultra-fast MySQL database at the back end, users can access data from over 200,000 documents and from more than 70 federal agencies quickly and seamlessly.

"MapStats", another feature of FedStats, is a dynamic MySQL-based application that delivers statistical profiles of states, counties and other local regions. Like FedStats, it transparently aggregates data from many different sources within and outside the U.S. Census. A popular site for many government agencies, MapStats has almost 70,000 records and relies heavily on the performance of the MySQL database to serve up statistics quickly and accurately.

The Census Bureau's MySQL-based "QuickFacts" is an award-winning, user-friendly web site that provides state and county profiles with the latest Census statistics about people, business and geography. Visited by many students and others unaccustomed to using Census data, QuickFacts serves an average of 120,000 pages per day. It won the 2001 Census Bureau's Director's Award for Innovation in 2001. The U.S. Census Bureau's open source-developed web sites have served as models of success for this government agency. "We've had a lot more traffic to our office because of our success with MySQL," said LaPorte Taylor. "We are now helping other departments within our agency develop applications with open source software, and we have future plans for more MySQL-based applications."

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