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9/12/2011
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Internet Tops For Communicating With Government

PC communications is the preferred method, but people still want the ability to interact with officials by phone, mail, and in person, reports IDC survey.

Obama's Tech Tools
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Most people prefer to use their PCs to interact with the federal government online or through email, although they still expect the feds to provide multiple channels for delivering services and information, according to new research by IDC.

Over a third--36%--of respondents to a new survey from IDC Government Insights, "Creating More Effective Government Information and Service Channels," said that they prefer to contact the government through their computers. IDC spoke to 2,048 U.S. citizens to glean insight about how frequently they interact with the government and how they like to engage in this communication.

The numbers differ slightly in terms of the type of government citizens are contacting, according to the survey. Thirty percent of respondents said they prefer interacting with their local governments via a PC, while 31.9% prefer that means of interaction with state governments. Meanwhile, 35.6% said they prefer to receive information and services from the federal government via their PCs, according to IDC.

Technology also comes into play in another preference people have for having the government deliver information and services. More people are becoming interested in receiving proactive alerts via RSS feeds, blogs, and social media sites like Facebook regarding available services or deadlines they may need to meet, according to the survey.

A small number of respondents--18.7%--expressed interest in government-facilitated social networking among citizens with similar interests or services needs, according to the survey.

Still, while the survey showed a slight preference for PC and Web interaction with the government in general, the research showed that many still want to interact in person, by phone, or through postal mail.

"Therefore, governments must maintain multiple channels of communication and figure out how to efficiently move information across channels," according to IDC research director Adelaide O'Brien, who authored the report.

IDC's research is in line with another recent report that also found that reaching the government via the Web on PCs and other devices delivers the most satisfying customer service response.

The federal government has done much under the Obama administration to improve how federal agencies deliver customer service over the Web as part of the feds' open government and transparency efforts.

To formalize these plans, in April the White House released an executive order aimed at streamlining how agencies deliver services and improve their level of customer service. Goals of the order include providing a better overall customer experience, soliciting customer feedback, and streamlining agency customer service processes, among others.

Indeed, improving all methods of service delivery via multiple channels is key to achieving the administration's goals for integrating more contemporary technology into the fabric of this interaction, what O'Brien refers to as a transition from "open government" to "smart government."

"Prerequisites for transcending from Open Government to Smart Government are government's ability to embrace cultural change and to collaborate with other governments and with citizens to deliver optimum citizen information and services," O'Brien said in a press statement. "To succeed, government must understand citizens' preferred channels of interacting with government and what information and services they want government to provide."

In the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: As federal agencies close data centers, they must drive up utilization of their remaining systems. That requires a well-conceived virtualization strategy. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/13/2011 | 9:38:57 AM
re: Internet Tops For Communicating With Government
Great article! I think the nature of the information being requested/discussed is a big driver for what channels are considered acceptable--especially when it comes to things like health care, financials, etc. I wouldn't want to post a question about my own taxes on any IRS social presence that pops up, but I might use social media to search for people who have had the same question. I'll bet age and socioeconomics play a big role in what channels people use as well. You can see how organizations will have their work cut out for them in the future, maintaining more and more modes of communication--each with their own culture, regulatory issues, etc.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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