Library Index » Social Issues & Debate Topics

Information Technology and Government - Communicating With Government, The Federal Government And Internet Technologies, Elections And Politics, The 511 Travel Information System

american systems people online

Since the 1990s, government bodies in the United States at the local, state, and federal level have made a concerted effort to use the Internet and other information technologies to streamline their operations and their dealings with the public. Much of this effort has been focused on making information available via the Internet. Local and municipal governments began posting meeting minutes and agendas online. Many states erected Web sites that allowed citizens to renew registrations and obtain licenses online. The federal government brought myriad services and information to the Web, allowing Americans to do everything from applying for a patent online to reviewing the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution. Even politicians began to campaign and raise money online. The American public has taken advantage of these services. According to John B. Horrigan in How Americans Get in Touch with Government, a May 2004 Pew Internet & American Life Project (Pew/Internet) report, nearly eighty-three million people said they had looked for information on a federal Web site in 2003, which represents an increase of seventeen million people from the year before.

Various government entities have employed other forms of information technology to streamline services outside of cyberspace. After the hotly contested presidential race of 2000, state election commissions replaced many of the aging voting systems with electronic touch-screen and optical scanning systems. These systems made the voting booth accessible for many disabled people and presumably led to more accurate ballot totals in elections. Advances in communications and detection systems have also given rise to networks along American highways that monitor traffic and weather conditions on a real-time basis. In 1999 the federal government designated 511 as the universal phone number by which people could access these systems to obtain details on traffic and weather in their area. As of fall 2004, the 511 system serviced more than seventy-one million people in twenty-four cities.

TABLE 7.1

Reasons for contacting the government, 2003
All Government patrons Government patrons with very urgent reason Government patrons with very complicated reason
n = 1,657
SOURCE: John Horrigan, "Reason for Last Contact with Government," in How Americans Get in Touch with Government, Pew Internet and American Life Project, May 24, 2004, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_E-Gov_Report_0504.pdf (accessed December 11, 2004). Used by permission of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.
Transaction 30% 26% 22%
Specific question 25 23 19
Express opinion 19 16 24
Solving a problem 11 23 19
Some other purpose 7 7 8
Combination of above 5 5 5
Insurance—Those With and Those Without - Who Was Uninsured In 2002 And 2003?, Sources Of Health Insurance, Children, Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act Of 1996 [next] [back] Information Technology and American Business - Information Technology Industry, The Impact Of Information Technology On American Businesses, E-commerce, It And Currency

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