U.S. Census Bureau Reaps Awards from MySQL-based Web Sites
14 Jan 2002
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
"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."