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It may not be the most exciting part of the technology industry, but government is increasingly using the internet to communicate and interact with citizens.

In some cases, use of the internet is becoming a requirement as agencies are required to be a part of 'open government' initiatives.

When it comes to government activity online, where is all the action? A new report from GovDelivery, a digital communications solutions provider focused on government, three subjects accounted for over half of all online requests from citizens in 2011: health, business and jobs.

Interaction with citizens is often related to information requests. So it's no surprise that the IRS, USA.gov, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration saw individual email and social media updates being shared the most by recipients. The agencies producing the greatest amount of email and social media-based sharing overall were the Department of Defense, IRS and FoodSafety.gov.

According to GovDelivery, its clients saw an average increase in the number of digital subscribers of 20%. The greatest third of performers saw subscriber numbers increase by an average of 85%.

It seems likely that such growth will continue. The demand for information is seemingly unlimited. As GovDelivery CEO Scott Burns notes, "Federal agencies are seeing unprecedented demand from the public for direct communications on everything from national emergencies to targeted programs." What is limited is money. Significantly reduced budgets should motivate government agencies to increase their use of the internet and digital communications tools to disseminate information and serve constituents.

To be successful, however, agencies can't exactly skimp on effort. Increasingly, those they serve will expect enjoyable, efficient experiences, meaning government agencies will be expected to employ digital tools just as well as the private sector.

Patricio Robles

Published 19 January, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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