Context: Ambitious online 2018 Census Programme
In August 2016 Australia's online national Census survey failed for 40 hours during peak usage following a series of 'denial of service' attacks. The impact was so serious that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull publicly commented on the programme's failings. A key problem identified was the inadequate testing of the census technology.
In this context, New Zealand's 2018 Census was an ambitious and high-risk programme. Stats NZ conducts the Census every five years as “the official count of how many people and dwellings there are in New Zealand”. The data is used to make important government and business decisions and funding allocations.
The 2018 Census planned to use a digital-first approach with the goal of 70 percent of the population completing the survey online. Stats NZ would need an online system that was secure, worked as expected, and had the capacity to perform under high traffic and data loads.
As Stats NZ CEO and Government Statistician Liz MacPherson explained: “we’re aiming for more than double the number of people to complete online than in 2013, and this means designing a system that can cope with a lot of people online at once, and a lot of attention.”