The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has come out with its latest report findings, "How Americans Get in Touch With Government".
"When citizens think about a tool to contact government, they have a Swiss Army knife in mind," said Senior Researcher John B. Horrigan of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and principal author of the report. "People want multiple means at hand when they want or need to turn to government. The Internet's main benefit is arming people with more information."
The upshot: Most Americans like having the governmental information resources available on the Web, especially for reference, but generally prefer to do the nuts-and-bolts dealings in person or on the phone. In general, getting actionable results from government bureaucracy requires live one-on-one interaction that a Web interface can't quite provide just yet.

My personal experience reflects this. Just today, I had need to order some publications from the state of Florida. I was able to get the right phone number off the website, but needed to call to actually do the transaction. Similarly, I was able to renew most of my car's license plate registration online, but still had to go to the motor vehicle bureau's office to finish the whole thing.

A more pertinent example: I never would have found out about a missing paycheck from nearly a decade ago had I not been trolling around the Florida state government's website last year. Even then, I had to prod the process along by making a couple of phone calls to Tallahassee to finally extract the money.