Twelve apps for a full census count

Good apps like hand tools. They are multi-purpose.

7 mins read

They meet different needs – business, advocacy and even the census. These innovative apps are being applied for a full count in the upcoming census. Seven are free. The rest are affordable.


Conduct surveys without internet access

Native American organizers use a free survey app on phones and laptops that works without internet access. Field workers use the app to collect census pledge cards on remote tribal lands without internet access. Digitizing the Census Pledge Card *

Digitizing forms filled out by hand

Many incarceration facilities don’t allow electronic devices inside. This makes it harder for organizers to collect and process information. A free app automatically digitizes and transcribes handwritten forms. The app can also be used to collect and digitize hand-written census related forms. Transcription app

Finding transitory living facilities to reach the ‘hard to contact’ (HTC)

It’s hard to locate RV parks, campgrounds, marinas, migrant worker housing to assign canvassers to visit. Mapping apps with their own data sources meet this need. These apps can also help identify where to send census enumerators to reach HTC communities.
Finding types of buildings / living areas * 
Finding addresses in a chosen area


Helping people without internet access or cell phones

A Virginia grassroots group handles calls from people with only a landline using a voice chatbot. Their requests for rides to the polls, are transcribed the and emailed to a ride coordinator. The same chatbot can also be used to collect details for the census from individuals and respond to their queries. Get-A-Ride

Finding the closest resource

A healthcare advocacy groups helps women find the nearest clinic through an interactive map and by text. it uses a ‘proximity search’ is used to find the nearest clinic. The app can also help people find the nearest attorney for census related questions. Chatbot Jane

Responding to questions in different languages

A voting rights group provides voters with voter ID details in their preferred language using an SMS chatbot. Multi-lingual bots are ideal for census related projects serving different ethnic communities. Spanish chatbot

Learning about voting and census problems as they occur

Voters used the “See Something, Say Something” (SeeSay) app  from their phones to report voting problems they encountered midterms. The incidents reported were automatically mapped for a fast response. The app can also handle real-time reporting of census related issues. See Something, Say Something

Training and mobilizing

Training workers in the field

Grassroots groups in the midwest use a free app to remotely train members on communication skills. The interactive training is delivered as digital flash cards which students can take at any time. The flash cards come in different languages and can be quickly updated with new content. The same app can be used to train census enumerators. Digital flash card training. *

Responding quickly to inquiries with minimal staff

Organizers in Virginia serving low-income families help people find out about the federal, state and local benefits they are entitled to using a chatbot. Help desks can be overwhelmed by a flood of calls. New chatbots are affordable and easily handle any number of calls. The chatbot ask questions to determine the caller’s situation, find the answer and respond immediately. Chatbots can also answer a range of questions about the census. Benefits Bot

Choosing the best spot to place a billboard

Geo-targeting determines the best place to place a billboard to based on traffic patterns, ethnic concentrations and hundreds of other variables. The app can also recommend where to place billboards to maximize census participation. Choosing the right billboard location *

Provide info from multiple sources through a single app

A civil rights group in Nevada let people anonymously learn about legal rights and  immigration policies through a free mobile app. The group collects information from different sources, in multiple languages and delivers it through the app. Users can search and find the latest information quickly without having to go to multiple websites. The same app can be used to securely provide census related information. Immigrant Country app *

Creating persuasive videos

Translating videos into different languages

Organizers use an app to affordably translate and caption video into different languages to increase their reach. The same app can be applied to quickly translate public service videos about taking part in the census into different languages. Video translation & captioning

Collecting video clips from community members to mobilize others

Real life testimonial videos are persuasive. Several grassroots groups use a free app to remotely collect video responses from people on an issue. Ethnic Media Services has trained journalists to collect videos from community members to encourage others to take part in the census. Collecting community voices *

Creating and customizing videos

Different groups need to customize a video to their own needs. Campaigns use free apps to create and edit videos with just a laptop. These apps can also be used to create and edit census related public service messages. Create & edit videos *


Businesses spend a lot on new ways to target customers and sell more. Use their innovations for the social good. With so much at stake in the census, it is vital to use the best tools for a full count. Learn more here.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

* indicates a free(mium) app

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Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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