Many misconceptions and fears are already developing around the upcoming 2020 census. While it may be the most politicized census yet, we believe that every American should be counted and heard. A fair and accurate census is essential to the functioning of our nations's democracy.
What it does
Our web application is meant to educate people about civics and encourage them to complete the census. It provides them with information about why the census is important to our society, as well as how to participate. It also allows users to receive messages describing how the the census can benefit their local community specifically.
How we built it
We used Jekyll to create a static webpage, which is hosted on GitHub Pages and published to a custom domain from Domain.com. We also used a compute instance on Google Cloud to receive the web form and implement the Twilio API for SMS communication. We also used a variety of APIs from Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps to make our web and messaging content more relevant to users' daily lives.
Challenges we ran into
At first, we had a hard time making all of the different services we were using, from the web server to the static page to the interactive APIs, to work together. It took many hours of research to identify how we could integrate these tools to craft a more cohesive tool for users.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud that we learned new skills along the way because they took time and effort to learn. We had never used the Twilio API before, and we were able to use it in conjunction with a Google Maps API. Not only that, but we are proud of the fact that Count Me In 2020 ultimately has the potential to educate others about the census.
What we learned
As a group, we learned how to use Python with Flask and ngrok. We all learned how to better integrate APIs in our code as well as integrating Twilio. Not only that, but we learned to appreciate the value of hard-work and patience, even when we would spend hours trying to figure out how to improve our code. Because of those experiences, we leave PennApps better coders and teammates than when we started.
What's next for Count Me In 2020
Once the census starts, we will have daily tract-level data on census participation. Combined with our geolocation data, we will be able to see when and where our service had the most impact, and what parts of the service most influenced people's decisions. This data provides us with a natural experiment for learning about how to improve our design for future endeavors.