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The Australian Bureau of Statistics has come up with a novel and popular way to raise awareness of census information.  Now is your chance to flex your dictatorial muscles with Run That Town.  Beware however, if your neighbour turns up at the front door with a pitchfork and burning torch, run!


Statistics can be fun, right?  Well in the case of Run That Town the answer is yes.

Run That Town is an iOS only game/app where you take the roll of town planner/local politician, approving or rejecting proposals that cross your desk.

“II’s the first game of its type to be released by a national statistical agency using real census data”  Sue Taylor from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) told iTWire.

The ABS decided it was time for the people of Australia to be more aware about the country they live in.  The 2011 national census forms the basis of the game-play, but the ABS simply wanted to get the word out there:  “[we were aiming] at a cohort of people that normally don’t come onto the ABS website to look at this data,” says Taylor “and give a sense of the importance of the census data and the role it plays creating and shaping were they live, while at the same time having fun while they do it”

“[the game has a]Fairly serious underlying purpose, but in a fun and interactive way” says taylor, and this is true.  You pick a postcode and suburb and are immediately presented with development and event proposals.  The aim is to stay popular with your constituents, and the tools in your arsenal are your own knowledge of the area, plus the response from  ‘locals’, both positive and negative based on census statistics of the area.

You spend ‘clout’ and ‘income’ earned each month to approve proposals, or simply reject the plans and await the papers to see how popular those decisions were.  All the time comedian Shaun Micallef berates or praises you in his own amusing Sir Humphries style.  Over the course of ten years of game-play you will find out just how well you can run that town.

“One of the things the ABS wants to do is at a broad level, increase the level of understanding people have about statistics in Australian society.” Explains Taylor “Now that might sound a bit dry, but the census is one of the few things that everybody in Australia participates in every five years.  They give up their time, they give up their information, and one of the things we want to make sure is that this fascinating resource is widely exposed for the public, so what better way to do that than by putting real live data about real live people in an app so they can use it in a way that other people use it to make decisions?”

“The real life situation, decisions makers all over the place make decisions based on census data, child care centres and primary school locations really draw on local census data just to [understand] are their lots of kids to coming into the area?”

One concern that immediately springs to mind is that of security over possible sensitive information getting into the wrong hands.  “The smallest geographic area we go down to is ‘suburb’,” explains Taylor “the kind of information we have in there is, like, what is the age and sex structure of that suburb, in that suburb how many people are unemployed, employed, so it’s all done on a proportional basis, what proportion of people are in a medium or high income bracket, broadly what kind of families live in that area, young families with children, or empty nesters.  Because it is done at a suburb level, and it is just proportional, there isn’t any sensitive info in there.”

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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