There's a simple maths problem with what the ABS says it was ready for on census night

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the national experts on numbers, says they were ready for census night.

The website had the capacity to handle 260 census forms a second, they said today.

That’s 936,000 an hour, some 64,000 less than the 1 million the ABS claimed prior to census night, but let’s call the figure seasonally adjusted.

But in the meantime, the government and ABS urged everyone to jump online on Census night and fill out the form.

By the time they took down the website around 7.40pm last night, they’d received 2.33 million forms and said everything was working as expected.

But the maths don’t add up. Here’s why.

An estimated 13 million households were expected to take part in the census.

But based on the ABS’s own capacity estimated, over seven hours on census night – 5pm to midnight, the website would be able to take a maximum of 6,552,000 forms based on the stated capacity – just half of the total number expected. The ABS expected a 65% e-census take up rate, which still works out at around 8.5 million – which means they were banking on around a quarter of people not doing the form on the night.

But you’d expect that most people, as they have for 100 years with the paper form, would sit down between about 7pm and 10pm to fill it out.

Do these numbers stack up for the ABS?

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