Calls for return to paper after census fail

After millions of Australians were faced with a frustrating error message while trying to complete the census online last night, there are now fresh calls for a return to the paper form system.

This year’s print run of the census – completed by Print Media Group was expected to be slashed by more than two thirds from 2011 with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) migrating Australians to online applications in a bid to save costs.

However the 2016 census has been labelled a disaster after four cyber-attacks forced the ABS to shut down the website at 7.30pm, with only two million people having completed it on the night.

Keep Me Posted executive director Kellie Northwood says the debacle has proved a paper system is a smarter option.

“I think it is all very well for our Prime Minister to call for innovation, but innovation is not just about digital. Innovation is about doing things cleverly and in a well-considered manner, the idea this can only be achieved through online is kind of naïve,” Northwood says.

“Let’s make it simple for people because it is critical to get this census data, so we should collect it in the way people prefer which is in paper form.” 

With a majority of Australians having not yet received a paper form, Northwood suggests in future the survey should be offered mainly in paper with the option to go digital.

“While Keep Me Posted were appreciative that the census provided the paper option without charge, this is the first time it has gone online so surely it should have been opt in for digital than the other way around,” she says.

“It has proved very difficult to get through the telephone system to order a paper form and last night the online infrastructure could not handle the overload of people as well as hackers.”

As of 11am this morning, the census site was still unavailable and over the past 24 hours #censusfail has generated more than 80,000 tweets.

The long outage has many politicians leading the call for a senate inquiry, including Senator Nick Xenophon and Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh.

The federal government says Australians who are unable to fill out the census due to the outage will not be fined and have until September 23 to complete the survey.

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