Aussies suffer Census headache as online system fails

David Bicknell1 Published 09 August 2016

Australian Bureau of Statistics under fire as system overload crashes website

For a nation that s had its fair share of IT project disasters, such as the Rural Payments Agency s system to process EU subsidy payments for farmers, and just a couple of months ago, registration for the EU referendum, it s almost liberating to see that other countries can have problems too. Overnight, it was the Australians who were cursing government IT when, having been encouraged by blanket government advertisements to ensure they fill in their Census forms or risk an A$180 ( 106) fine, they found the Census website crashing. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has since apologised for a mass outage of the census website that prevented thousands of people from completing the survey online for the first time.

The ABS had estimated that up to two thirds of Australians would fill out the census online this year, but when an estimated 16m people logged on to the Census website on Tuesday night, they were met with error messages and told the system was “overloaded” before the website finally crashed, triggering widespread criticism on social media via the hashtag ‘#censusfail’. The ABS website simply said, The system is very busy at the moment. Please try again later.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. The reason for the failure has yet to be fully explained, though opposition political figures quickly blamed the failed national broadband network (NBN). In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has created a Census Transformation Programme,2 which details how the ONS will provide an online census of all households and communal establishments in England and Wales in 2021.

The programme will look at how the 2021 Census data collection operation is run as well as its coverage survey (including the address register, field force, online/paper data collection, public support and enumeration of communal establishments).

The programme will also increase the use of administrative data and surveys in order to enhance the statistics from the 2021 Census and improve annual statistics between censuses.

Related articles:

ONS schedules national census procurement events3


  1. ^ David Bicknell (
  2. ^ Census Transformation Programme, (
  3. ^ ONS schedules national census procurement events (

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