December 29, 2002

Counting on the Internet: Most find the information they seek, expect

Part 3: High expectations about E-government

High expectations about E-government

The number of Americans using the Internet to find out about government services has grown substantially since the Pew Internet Project first inquired about this in March 2000.  Then, 47% of Internet users had sought information from state, local, or federal government Web sites; that translated into about 40 million Americans.  By the summer of 2002, 62% of Internet users had done this.  With the growth in the Internet population during that time, this means 71 million Americans had gone online to find government information by mid-2002.  The breadth of things surfers seek at government Web sites is striking; people look for tourist information, they download government forms, they check to see what services are available, and they look for potential opportunities to do business with government or handle their transactions like applying for benefits or renewing car registrations. 

If you need information from a government agency, would you expect to be able to get the information or service from the agency’s Web site?

With more Americans using the Web to find out more about their government, this has had a kind of viral effect on people’s expectations about online government information.  All in all, 65% of Americans expect to find government information online, with four out of five Internet users expecting to find government information on the Net. 

Success is apparently breeding the high expectations among Americans about the Web as a source of government information.  About three quarters (71%) of Internet users say that they “always” or “most of the time” find what they are looking for when they go to a federal, state, or local Web site.  One in five (20%) say they always find what they need at government Web sites.

A consequence of rising expectations about online government information is that the Net is becoming the first choice for most Internet users when it comes to accessing government information.  A small plurality of all Americans say they would first turn to the Net for government information, and nearly three in five Internet users say this.  For those Internet users who have gone to a government Web site (57% of online users), three quarters (74%) say they will turn to the Internet first when they next need government information.

The next time you need information or services from a government agency are you more likely to go to the agencies Web site, call it on the telephone, go to the agency in person, or write a letter?