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The majority of Internet users in the United States are going online to search for government information and access government services, according to a survey unveiled this week.
The findings of the survey by Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project lend support to the Open Government Directive, which calls for the federal government to use the Internet and other technology to better engage with the public.
The survey found that 82% of Internet users -- or 61% of all American adults -- looked for information online or completed a transaction on a government Web site in the year preceding the survey.
The report surveyed 2,258 adults aged 18 or older in the United States between Nov. 30 and Dec. 27, 2009 in telephone interviews. This particular Pew project gathers information on the cultural, political, and societal effects of the Internet.
The survey identified that people's online interaction with the government generally fit into one of three categories: data driven, in which people are searching for information that's been made available online; activities that involve online platforms such as blogs, e-mail, or text messaging; and participatory activities in which people can provide feedback.
In terms of data-driven behavior, the survey found that 48% of Internet users have looked for information about a public policy or issue online pertaining to local, state, or federal government, while 35% have researched official government documents or statistics.
A total of 31% of online adults used some of the Internet and communication technologies the government has recently adopted -- such as blogs, social networking sites, e-mail, online video, or text messaging -- to interact. The survey called these individuals "government social media users."
In terms of participatory engagement with the government, which is a relatively new experience, 23% of Internet users said they participated in online debates around government policies or issues. However, much of this discussion happened outside of government Web sites, something the government appears to be trying to change by implementing new technologies like crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing platforms allow people to submit ideas and vote and provide feedback on those ideas about how to better serve citizens.
People also more and more seem to be doing business with the government online, according to the survey. Fully 41% of those surveyed said they've downloaded government forms, while 33% have renewed a driver's license or completed an auto registration online.
A total of 23% said they have gotten information about or applied for government benefits online, while 15% paid a fine, such as a parking ticket, online.