Cloud tool helped Florida with 2010 Census count

The 2010 Census is over, but many are still talking about the new technologies that were used for the count this time around.

Gail Thomas is vice president for state and local government at Microsoft, and explains that she and others at the company worked on a project called MyFloridaCensus, which helped the state of Florida count citizens during the Census.

She tells Fed Cloud Blog all about the goal of the tool.

GT: We were excited to partner with the state of Florida on this cloud solution from Microsoft, which is all about enhancing the efforts around ensuring that they had a complete count of residents during the 2010 Census.

Really, it was meant to sort of supplement the door-to-door canvassing. . . . This solution is a final push to be able to count state residents and it’s through a website called It’s a web-based application which allows . . . citizens to provide dynamic feedback and visual representations of that feedback. It’s really an innovative way to capture census information and to really have citizens take part in gathering that information.

It’s an opportunity for citizens to speak, as well, on what could help improve their community.

FCB: Is this [a place] where people can comment on a blog or take pictures? Give our listeners a little bit more information on that front.

GT: For starters, it’s hosted on Windows Azure, which is our cloud platform. It runs using Silverlight for cross-browser compatibility, as well. With the support of a Bing maps interface . . . It allows visitors to really share their experiences, provide feedback. [It is] an opportunity for social, user generated experiences around the census information count that they’re doing. [There] are visual representations in terms of providing feedback, so it really is sort of an interactive type of a program.

FCB: You mentioned Azure — and we know, talking with other people from Microsoft Federal . . . that it recently launched. Define Azure — what is it — and talk a little about cloud computing. How has it evolved, and what’s Microsoft doing in the world of the cloud with Azure right now?

GT: Our strategy around the cloud and hosted offerings is really broad and comprehensive.

We provide software in the cloud, which is software delivered as a service — things like your traditional email and collaboration type activities that people can do in the cloud.

Then, we provide infrastructure in the cloud and platform in the cloud, and Azure is our platform in the cloud, which allows people to develop applications in the cloud. It is language agnostic, so its completely open. . . . [Azure] allows applications that are hosted up there the ability to expand and contract the use of the server space, and it helps reduce the overall cost of those solutions when they’re not in peak use.

So, MyFloridaCensus, for example — there’s obviously a peak usage time that will die down. . . . It really is very cost effective as far as a solution goes and really provides a lot of flexibility. Another good example of that is we’ve got a solution called Hey Gov, which was built from the Miami 311 solution, which is a 311 online solution for citizens to be able to record non-emergency type incidents, and see exactly what the status of that incident is online.

FCB: So, are you doing anything like this or looking to do anything like this with other states or other local governments?

GT: Absolutely. . . . This solution that we worked on with Miami 311 now has a broader applicability — Hey Gov — and we’re starting to talk to a number of cities that are interested in doing similar things with a 311 system in the cloud, as well.

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