Did you renew your driver's license or pay your last parking ticket online? If so, you're part of a growing number of people in the U.S. taking advantage of government services on the Internet.
A poll of more then 2,000 American adults late last year found that 82 percent of Internet users, or 61 percent of all U.S. adults, looked up information or made a transaction on a government Web site in the past year. The results of the poll, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and released Tuesday, also discovered that more people are using government sites to keep tabs on their local and federal officials.
Specific figures revealed that 33 percent of those surveyed took to the Web to renew their driver's license or car registration, 41 percent downloaded government forms, and 23 percent researched or applied for government benefits online. But taxpayers are also increasingly going online to check up on government.
Among those surveyed, 23 percent said they went on the Web to see how the federal stimulus money is being spent, 22 percent downloaded the text of legislation, and 14 percent wanted to know who was contributing to the politicians who represent them.
"Government interactions in the information age are often fueled by data," Aaron Smith, a research specialist at the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, said in a statement. "Online citizens can--and often do--'go to the source' in their efforts to monitor government activities, evaluate the impacts of new legislation, and track the flow of their tax dollars."
Beyond using the Web, 31 percent of those polled said they also use blogs, social-networking sites, online video, and e-mail and text alerts to keep tabs on what the government is up to. And 23 percent of them said they join online debates about government issues and policies.
Search engines are typically the way most people find government information and services on the Web. Of those surveyed, 44 percent said they found a government Web site by running a search, compared with 16 percent who directly visited a site they had previously used and only 4 percent who went to a specific site such as usa.gov.
Through its Open Government directive, the Obama Administration has been working to make more data publicly available online. That effort may be paying off. Around half of the people who visited government Web sites said they were able to accomplish their business, while only 5 percent said their experience with a government Web site was completely unsuccessful.
The study was based on phone surveys of 2,258 American adults conducted between November 30 and December 27, 2009.