Houston Case Study: 21st Century Regional Communication Solutions
Prior to the advent of the Internet, providing international language access for all constituencies of the region was cost-prohibitive, in printing, mailing, media and distribution costs. The translation work itself, while labor intensive to ensure accurate message rendering, was affordable, and in many instances contributed, or cost-discounted, due to the public interest nature of the work.
Now, "in-language pages" can be embedded in, or hyperlinked to, existing websites, as was executed so effectively by the 2010 Census.gov website. This website embedded a 60-language menu on its 2010 Census information home page. In the five years since the Census website was designed, the technological advances in programming simplification have exploded.
This innovative multilingual information strategy enabled local communication professionals and community influencers to drive their respective language audiences to the Census site and specific in-language hyperlinks in much-needed primary languages.
The 2010 Houston Counts campaign emerged as the very first local test case for proving a measurable response-performance basis for an effective multilingual communication strategy.
It worked. After 4 decades of chronic, ever-growing Census undercounts, costing our region hundreds of millions in lost federal dollars for economic and other development support, this 2010 increase in Houston's Census response rates ranked second highest among the nation's 10 largest cities. While nationwide response rates remained flat, Houston's 6% increase in Census count documented an additional 125,000 residents, projecting an additional $278.5M of our own federal tax dollars returned to support our region.
Ultimately, expensing the costs of translations, formatting and web attachment programming
is well within the budgets of public sector agencies. It is merely a matter of solution awareness
and the will to engage their constituencies.