The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) surveys farmers and ranchers across the United States and Puerto Rico in order to estimate crop production and number of livestock, to assess production practices, and to identify economic trends. Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) involves an interviewer going to the respondent with the questionnaire displayed on a computer (generally a laptop). All responses are captured on the computer. Although CAPI has been around since the 1980’s, all previous forms of CAPI have centered around both the data and the data collection instrument being stored on the device. Also, over the past three years, there have been several accounts of agencies and businesses losing or having laptops stolen containing clients’ personal information. Although the possibility of someone bypassing the security mechanisms of the device and decrypting the data is small, it still exists. This possibility of data being compromised combined with the sensationalism of the news media can cause the general public to question the advisability of participating in surveys, adversely affecting the entire survey industry. NASS’ CAPI solution, coined thin client CAPI, is an innovative thin client approach which leverages wireless broadband technology and a recently completed web-based data collection system called Electronic Data Reporting (EDR). In general, a field interviewer using a low-cost netbook accesses the Internet using a wireless aircard. The field interviewer accesses NASS’ data collection website and brings up the questionnaires that need to be completed by that particular agricultural operation. The interview is completed real-time over the Internet with no data ever residing on the netbook.


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