Information Technology and Government
Chapter 7: Information Technology and Government
Since the 1990s government bodies in the United States at the local, state, and federal levels have made a concerted effort to use the Internet and other types of information technology (IT) to streamline their operations and dealings with the public. Much of this effort has been focused on making information available via the Internet. Local and municipal governments now post meeting minutes and agendas online. States have erected Web sites that allow citizens to renew registrations, obtain licenses, and track legislation online. The federal government has brought myriad services and information to the Internet, 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 in large numbers. According to John B. Horrigan of the Pew Internet & American Life Project (Pew/Internet), in How Americans Get in Touch with Government (May 24, 2004, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_E-Gov_Report_0504.pdf), ninety-seven million Americans said they had looked for information on a government Web site in 2003, which represented an increase of seventeen million people from the year before. The U.S. General Services Administration reports in the press release “Time Magazine Names USA.gov One of 25 Sites We Can Not Live Without” (July 10, 2007, http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/Press_Releases.shtml) that in 2007 the federal government received eighty-four million hits on its main Web portal alone.
Various government entities have employed other forms of IT to streamline services outside of cyberspace. After the hotly contested 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush (1946–) and Senator Albert Gore Jr. (1948–), state election commissions replaced many of the aging mechanical 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 U.S. highways that monitor traffic and weather conditions on a real-time basis. For example, 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. The 511 Deployment Coalition notes in “511 Usage Statistics” (September 12, 2008, http://www.deploy511.org/usage.html) that by 2008 the 511 system serviced more than 129 million people in 33 states and 2 Canadian provinces.
American citizens are constantly interacting with their government. Horrigan states that as of 2003, 109 million American adults contacted the government yearly by electronic or other means. (This number does not include the filing of taxes.) Horrigan notes that the percentage of Internet users contacting the government had been steadily rising. In 2000, 47% of Internet users (forty million people) had contacted the government during the previous year. This percentage had increased to 56% (sixty-six million) in 2002 and to 77% (ninety-seven million people) in 2003.
In Information Searches That Solve Problems: How People Use the Internet, Libraries, and Government Agencies When They Need Help (December 30, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/Pew_UI_LibrariesReport.pdf), Leigh Estabrook, Evans Witt, and Lee Rainie revisit the impact of Internet options on Americans' contact with government agencies. The researchers report that 58% of poll respondents over age eighteen had contacted the government during the previous twelve months. Forty-two percent had visited the government agency in person,
|TABLE 7.1 Poll respondents' preferred ways to contact government, 2007|
|source: Leigh Estabrook, Evans Witt, and Lee Rainie, “Preferred Way to Contact Government,” in Information Searches That Solve Problems: How People
Use the Internet, Libraries, and Government Agencies When They Need Help, Pew Internet & American Life Project and University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, December 30, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/Pew_UI_LibrariesReport.pdf (accessed August 21, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.
|Contact government via...||Telephone||Internet||Some other way (presumably in-person visit)|
|Personal tax problem||57%||55%||58%||17%||6%||23%||23%||25%||16%|
|Explore govt. benefits||26%||35%||21%||46%||20%||60%||25%||60%||17%|
|Programs agencies offer||22%||32%||16%||55%||26%||71%||18%||32%||10%|
|Getting car license||13%||15%||11%||31%||10%||43%||53%||68%||45%|
|Research for school or work||10%||18%||5%||66%||37%||82%||15%||27%||9%|
29% called, 18% initiated correspondence with a government office using e-mail, and 13% wrote a letter.
Internet users among the survey respondents were more likely to make contact with a government organization than those who did not go online. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those with Internet access had contacted the government in the previous year, compared to just over one-third (36%) of those who did not go online. More than three-quarters (78%) of Internet users had visited a government Web site at some time, and two-thirds (66%) had done so in the previous twelve months. Low-access adults (defined in the survey as the 36% of American adults who do not go online or who have only a dial-up connection) were overall less likely to contact the government using any means. Estabrook, Witt, and Rainie indicate that Americans were typically more likely to call or visit a government office if the matter was urgent, personal, or complex, such as a tax problem, with eight out of ten respondents preferring either to call (57%) or visit (23%) a government office to resolve tax issues and two-thirds preferring to call (13%) or visit (53%) a motor vehicle department to acquire a car license. (See Table 7.1.)
How people liked to contact the government, however, depended on the speed of their Internet connection. Table 7.1 analyzes the preferences survey respondents with low- and high-access to the Internet expressed for contacting government offices. Significant differences were seen in several areas, including how people preferred to explore government benefits and learn about the programs agencies offer. More than eight out of ten (82%) of high-access Internet users (defined as those with broadband connections) preferred to conduct their research for school or work online, whereas fewer than four out of ten (37%) low-access Internet users preferred this method. Seventy-one percent of high-access users would rather use the Internet to contact government agencies about the programs they offer, compared to 26% of low-access users who would contact the agencies this way. In-person visits to a government office to explore available benefits were preferred by low-access users; 60% of those with low access preferred visiting, whereas only 17% of high-access Internet users preferred an in-person visit for this purpose.
Why Americans Contact the Government
Horrigan reports that 66% of Internet users who had accessed government information in 2003 had done so to look for information. This included searching for everything from a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launch timetable to a brochure on local burning laws. Four out of ten (41%) poll respondents said they had accessed a government site to research official documents or statistics, such as U.S. Census figures. Obtaining recreational or tourist information on destinations, such as national parks and monuments, was the third-most popular activity (34%). However, not all experiences with government Web sites were positive. Of those who used a Web site to contact the government, 33% said the last time they tried the government site did not contain the information they needed. Twenty percent considered the site difficult to navigate, and 18% said they had trouble figuring out where to go on the site.
Online Contacts with State and Local Government
According to Horrigan, adults went online more frequently to contact their state government than their local government or the federal government. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said they had contacted their state government online, 35% had reached out to the federal government, and 23% said they had been in touch with their local government. By the early twenty-first century, every state government and the District of Columbia had an official Web site that contained information on various government agencies, policies, and procedures. Most states allowed residents to complete administrative tasks online such as renewing a vehicle registration or obtaining a fishing license. Some states even conducted more complex transactions online. For example, in Washington state residents can file a formal consumer fraud complaint on the attorney general's Web site.
Since the early 1990s hundreds of federal government Web sites have been established on the Internet. In the beginning each agency or division developed its Web site in a unique way, offering varying levels of accessibility to the user. Some were useful and informative. For example, in 1994 the U.S. Census Bureau launched the first U.S. government World Wide Web portal. From the start, hundreds of U.S. Census records from decades past could be easily viewed on the Web site.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also maintained a useful site. In 1997 the IRS began allowing people to download tax forms and file their taxes electronically. Nearly one million tax returns were filed from home computers that first year. Filing taxes online quickly became one of the most popular forms of Internet contact with the federal government. The IRS (July 5, 2008, http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/07ifss24.xls) reports that as of July 2008 it had received 87.3 million individual tax returns online. This was a 12.4% increase over the number of e-filings during the same period in the previous year (77.7 million) and represented 60% of the total number of individual returns received in 2008 (146.4 million).
However, many other government Web sites, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site, offered citizens little in the way of practical information or accessibility. By the late 1990s profit-driven commercial Web sites far outshone most government Web sites in both appearance and functionality. Seeing the untapped potential of many government Web sites, Congress and the White House put through a series of initiatives and laws to make federal government Web sites and services more accessible to the American people.
Government Paperwork Elimination Act
One of the first major congressional acts designed to improve the functionality of government Web sites was the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA) of 1998. The GPEA required that by October 2003 each government agency should provide people, wherever possible, with the option of submitting information or transacting business electronically. The act mandated that forms and documents involved in government transactions be placed online and that electronic signature systems be put in place to replace paper signatures. For example, companies that made electronic components for NASA projects were required to have the option to
|TABLE 7.2 Compliance of government agencies with the Government Paper Elimination Act (GPEA), December 2003|
|source: “Table 1. Summary of Federal Government Compliance,” in FY 2003 Report to Congress on Implementation of the E-Government Act, Executive
Office of the President of the United States, Office of Management and Budget, March 8, 2004, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/egov/fy03_egov_
rpt_to_congress.pdf (accessed July 18, 2008)
|Percentage||Number of transactions|
|Transactions compliant as of October 21, 2003||56%||4,040|
|Transactions compliant after October 21, 2003*||12%||898|
|Transactions that will not be completed||32%||2,249|
|Total transactions reported||7,187|
|*Agencies provided an expected date of completion of 2004 and beyond.|
bid for NASA contracts, complete all paperwork with regard to sale of the merchandise, and receive payment without having to use paper. Similarly, individuals were to have the option to apply for a patent online or to fill out a U.S. Census survey on the Internet. FedForms.gov (http://www.fedforms.gov) was created as a portal to all electronic forms available from the federal government, and by 2008 it cataloged hundreds of forms for more than fifty agencies.
THE GPEA's SUCCESS. Table 7.2 shows the percentage of government transactions that were compliant with GPEA standards as of the October 2003 deadline. Though over half (56%) of government transactions could be performed electronically, roughly one-tenth (12%) of transactions for one reason or another did not meet the deadline and were expected to be completed after 2003. Thirty-two percent of government transactions were not deemed suitable for electronic transactions. These included transactions such as customs forms, which are typically filled out on paper in an airplane approaching a U.S. airport, on a ship as it nears a U.S. port, or at an entry point along the border with Canada or Mexico.
In 2001 President Bush initiated the President's Management Agenda, which contained a number of initiatives intended to expand the role of the Internet in the federal government beyond the scope of the GPEA. Many of these initiatives were made law in 2002 when Congress passed the E-Government Act. The E-Government Act was a broad-reaching piece of legislation designed to streamline government Web sites and to provide a wide range of services to the American people via the Internet. The act established an E-Government Fund to provide money for agencies that could not afford IT and Web site development. In FY 2005 Report to Congress on Implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002 (March 1, 2006, http://www.whitehouse.gov/OMB/inforeg/reports/2005_e-gov_report.pdf), the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) notes that, for example, $200,000 of the fund was given to the U.S. General Services Administration in 2005 to develop an electronic system to help Hurricane Katrina victims apply for and receive government benefits. The E-Government Act also created the Office of Electronic Government (led by an administrator appointed by the president) and the Chief Information Officers Council, a committee composed of all the chief information officers from the major government agencies. (Chief information officers generally oversee Web development in a government agency.) The council and the e-government administrator were charged with overseeing that various agencies complied with the goals and provisions of the act.
Many of these goals established standards for government Web sites that were already in operation. Existing government Web sites were required to provide links to organization policy and hierarchy on the front page and to present their information in a way that was easily searchable. Many agencies with multiple Web sites, such as NASA or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, were asked to consolidate their sites so that all the information for the public could be reached within a few clicks of the agency's main page. The E-Government Act also supported new Web sites designed to provide basic services for American citizens. The FirstGov.gov (http://www.firstgov.gov/) site was deemed the official portal for all federal government Web sites. FirstGov.gov, which began operating in February 2000, provided links to more than twenty-two thousand federal and state Web sites as well as a hierarchical index of all government organizations. In January 2007 FirstGov.gov became USA.gov (http://www.usa.gov/). The OMB indicates in FY 2007 Report to Congress on the Implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002 (March 1, 2008, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/reports/fy2007_egov_report.pdf) that USA.gov received more than 97 million visits in fiscal year 2007, which equaled a rate of 1.87 million visits per week. Established in 2007, the Spanish-language companion site GobiernoUSA.gov (http://www.usa.gov/gobiernousa/) offers over nine hundred links to government sites maintained in Spanish. Visitors to GobiernoUSA.gov may also use the site to communicate via e-mail with the federal government and receive responses in Spanish.
Another Web site that the E-Government Act officially authorized was Regulations.gov (http://www.regulations.gov/), which was launched in January 2003. Regulations.gov lists pending regulations proposed by government agencies and allows citizens and nongovernmental agencies to comment on the regulations. The government agencies are then required to review the comments on Regulations.gov before putting a regulation into effect. This process provides the American people with the ability to influence government regulation—a privilege previously reserved largely for lobbyists.
As a result of these White House initiatives and congressional acts supporting e-government, federal agencies have come to offer many valuable online services to Americans. For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) erected a number of Internet kiosks in cities across the United States where those in need of affordable housing can access the HUD database to find federally owned homes to buy. By 2008 HUD maintained sixty-two automated centers throughout the country that serviced approximately twenty-five thousand customers per month (September 2008, http:// www.hud.gov/library/bookshelf11/kiosk/kioskstat.cfm). IT has also been used to save citizens money. For example, in 2002 the U.S. Department of Education made it possible for parents and students to apply online for a majority of the college grants and loans offered by the Department of Education. According to the OMB, in FY 2004 Report to Congress on Implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002 (March 1, 2005, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/2004_egov_report.pdf), the system reduced Department of Education costs associated with paperwork and postage by $23 million between fiscal years 2002 and 2003.
In February 2006, under the E-Government Act, the OMB launched ExpectMore.gov (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/expectmore/), a Web site that ranked the effectiveness and performance of more than one thousand federal programs in areas such as setting ambitious goals, achieving results, improving efficiency and accountability, and strengthening management practices. Expect More.gov (2008, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/expectmore/about.html) notes that as of 2008, 72% of federal programs were judged to be performing at an adequate level, but fewer than two out of ten (19%) had earned the highest ranking and were deemed “effective.”
SATISFACTION WITH GOVERNMENT WEB SITES. Even though some dissatisfaction exists with federal government Web sites, the American people seem to be happy with the improvements in e-government. Since 2003 the U.S. government has tracked Web sites in its annual American Customer Service Index. This index measures how satisfied the American people are with various aspects of the federal government. Table 7.3 reveals that out of the Web sites on the survey that facilitated transactions or e-commerce with the government, users were happiest with Social Security Administration sites designed to help Medicare recipients apply for extra financial assistance with prescription drug costs (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/i1020/) and to help applicants seeking Social Security benefits (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits). In the survey group that covered
|TABLE 7.3 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scores for e-government websites, July 2008|
|source: Adapted from “E-Government Score,” in Government Satisfaction Scores, U.S. Department of Treasury, Federal Consulting Group, July 29, 2008,
http://www.theacsi.org/images/stories/images/govsatscores/e-gov_Q2_2008.xls (accessed August 22, 2008). Data from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index, University of Michigan and ForeSee Results.
|E-government US agency/department/office||Web site||Score 7/08|
|Social Security Administration||Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs—http://www.socialsecuritygov/i1020/||88|
|Social Security Administration||Internet Social Security Benefits Application—http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits||87|
|Social Security Administration||Social Security Business Services Online—http://www.ssa.gov/bso/bsowelcome.htm||84|
|Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation||MyPBA—https://egov.pbgc.gov/mypba||83|
|Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation||MyPAA—https://egov.pbgc.gov/mypaa||82|
|United States Mint, Treasury||Online Catalog—http://catalog.usmint.gov||82|
|SSA Retirement Planner||Social Security Retirement Planner—www.socialsecurity.gov/r&m1.htm||76|
|Social Security Administration||Social Security Internet Disability Report—http://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/||73|
|Forest Service, Agriculture||Recreation One-Stop—www.recreation.gov||72|
|General Services Administration||GSA Global Supply Web site—https://www.globalsupply.gsa.gov||70|
|General Services Administration||GSA E-Buy—http://www.ebuy.gsa.gov||70|
|General Services Administration||GSA Advantage Web site—https://www.gsaadvantage.gov||69|
|Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt||TreasuryDirect—www.treasurydirect.gov||67|
|Portals/dept. main sites|
|National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, HHS||NIAMS Public Web site—http://www.niams.nih.gov/index.htm||82|
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention||CDC main Web site—www.cdc.gov||81|
|National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, HHS||National Cancer Institute main Web site—www.cancer.gov||80|
|General Services Administration||GobiernoUSA.gov Web site—www.gobiernousa.gov||80|
|Federal Bureau of Investigation main Web site||FBI main Web site—www.fbi.gov||80|
|National Aeronautics and Space Administration||NASA main Web site—www.nasa.gov||80|
|National Park Service, Interior||National Park Service main Web site—www.nps.gov||79|
|United States Mint, Treasury||U.S. Mint main Web site—www.usmint.gov||78|
|General Services Administration||GSA main Web site—www.gsa.gov||78|
|National Library of Medicine, HHS||NLM main Web site—www.nlm.nih.gov||75|
|U.S. Small Business Administration||SBA main Web site—www.sba.gov||74|
|National Institute for Standards and Technology||National Institute for Standards and Technology main Web site—www.nist.gov||74|
|Portals/dept. main sites|
|Government Accountability Office||GAO main public Web site—www.gao.gov||74|
|Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation||FDIC main Web site—www.fdic.gov||73|
|Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, HHS||SAMHSA Web site—www.samhsa.gov||73|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||VA Main Web site—www.va.gov and www.myhealth.va.gov||72|
|Department of the Treasury||Treasury main Web site—www.treasury.gov||72|
|Social Security Administration||Social Security Online (Main Website)—www.socialsecurity.gov/||72|
|Department of State||Department of State main Web site—www.state.gov||71|
|Internal Revenue Service, Treasury||IRS main Web site—www.irs.gov||71|
|United States Access Board||U.S. Access Board—http://www.access-board.gov||70|
|Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation||PBGC main Web site—www.pbgc.gov||70|
|General Services Administration||Federal Asset Sales (GovSales)—www.govsales.gov||69|
|National Archives & Records Administration||NARA main public Web site—www.archives.gov||66|
|Office of Disability Employment Policy, Labor||DisabilityInfo—www.DisabilityInfo.gov||63|
|United States International Trade Commission||U.S. International Trade Commission main Web site— http://www.usitc.gov/||58|
departmental portals or main sites, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (http:// www.niams.nih.gov/index.htm), a part of the National Institutes of Health, was the top scorer, with a satisfaction rating of 82 out of a possible 100 points. The lowest score in this survey segment, a 58, was received by the U.S. International Trade Commission (http://www.usitc.gov/).
The federal government has passed few laws designed to control Internet commerce or content compared to other broadcasting media. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates all television and radio content, treats the Internet more like print media than like broadcast media. Unless a major law is being violated, people can publish all manner of pornography, illicit writing, and misleading information on the Internet without fear of repercussion. Activities that are illegal in many states or the United States as a whole, such as purchasing Cuban cigars, can be done online with little fear of prosecution. In addition, most purchases made on the Internet were not subject to local sales tax as of 2008, and states and municipalities were forbidden by the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 to tax Internet use.
For the most part, Congress has been reluctant to place restrictions or taxes on the Internet. In 2005 a bill to make spyware illegal was rejected in the U.S. Senate, and in November 2007 Congress extended the tax ban on both interstate Internet commerce and Internet service to 2014. As for content, Congress is wary of potential public backlash that it would encounter if it regulates activities such as Internet pornography. Furthermore, enforcing strict regulations would be difficult. Unlike radio or television, publishing content on the Web is exceedingly easy. Anyone, provided he or she has willing participants, can set up a Web server for several thousand dollars, take pornographic pictures, and post them on the Internet. If the U.S. government did make Internet pornography illegal altogether, such sites could easily be moved offshore, where U.S. laws would not apply. Another option the government has is to place restrictions and controls on all computers and Web browsers in the United States. Such a plan may have been feasible back in the early 1990s, when Internet backbones and browsers were still in the development phase. However, placing such controls on the tens of millions of current computers and Web browsers now in use would neither be well received nor easily implemented.
CONTROLLING THE ASSAULT OF NON-SOLICITED PORNOGRAPHY AND MARKETING ACT. What little Internet regulation the federal government has enacted has been met with mixed results. On January 1, 2004, the Controlling the Assault of Non-solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act went into effect. The act, passed by Congress in 2003, required that all unsolicited commercial e-mail contain a legitimate return address as well as instructions on how to opt out of receiving additional solicitations from the sender. Spam must also state in the subject line if the e-mail is pornographic in nature. Violators of these rules were to be subject to heavy fines. According to Deborah Fallows of the Pew/Internet, in Data Memo: CAN-SPAM a Year Later (April 2005, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Spam_Ap05.pdf), one year after the act took effect, 47% of users said they were receiving the same amount of spam in their personal accounts, and 28% said they were actually receiving more spam.
CHILDREN's INTERNET PROTECTION ACT. A more successful regulation is the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 (CIPA). Under the act, public schools and libraries were required to keep minors from viewing explicitly sexual content on public school and library computers. If these organizations did not comply, they would no longer receive government assistance in buying IT equipment. According to Basmat Parsad, Jennifer Jones, and Bernard Greene, in Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994–2003 (February 2005, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005015.pdf), 97% of elementary and secondary public schools had complied with the CIPA by 2003. Regulations involving children's welfare have always been warmly received by the public, so this fact may account for the CIPA's success.
ADAM WALSH CHILD PROTECTION AND SAFETY ACT. Another effort using IT and the Internet in an attempt to protect the innocence and safety of children is the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which established a tiered-system of sexual offenses and required that convicted sexual offenders register and update their whereabouts with local law enforcement agencies for designated periods of time based on the seriousness of their offense. The act established the National Sex Offender Public Registry Web site (http://www.nsopr.gov/; renamed the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Web site in 2006), a national database of registered sex offenders that is searchable by name, state, county, town, or zip code. Table 7.4 shows the information that convicted offenders are required to provide to law enforcement agencies under the Adam Walsh Act, Title I of which is known as the Sex Offenders Registry and Notification Act. However, the public Web site discloses only the personal data presented in Table 7.5. In establishing guidelines under the new law, the U.S. Department of Justice (July 2008, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/pdfs/awa_search0708.pdf) anticipated implementing software that would allow local jurisdictions to add e-mail and phone number searches to their Web sites so that users could find out whether someone they were in contact with was a registered sex offender. The department
|TABLE 7.4 Required registration information under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act|
|source: Laura L. Rogers, “VI. Required Registration Information: SORNA, Section 114,” in The Adam Walsh Act: A National Endeavor to Protect
Children and Families, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, SMART Office, July 2008, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/pdfs/
awa_search0708.pdf (accessed August 29, 2008)
|• Criminal history|
|• Date of birth|
|• DNA sample|
|• Driver's license or identification card|
|• Employer address|
|• Internet identifiers|
|• Palm prints|
|• Passport and immigration documents|
|• Phone numbers|
|• Physical description|
|• Professional licensing information|
|• Resident address|
|• School address|
|• Social Security number(s)|
|• Temporary lodging information|
|• Text of registration offense|
|• Vehicle license plate number and description|
estimates in the press release “All 50 States Linked to Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Registry Web Site” (July 3, 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/2006/BJA06041.htm) that in 2006 the number of registered sex offenders in the United States exceeded five hundred thousand.
The Internet has not only influenced how people interact with the government but also how people approach politics. The number of people who read political news online increased dramatically between 2000 and 2004. In The Internet and Campaign 2004 (March 6, 2005, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_2004_Campaign.pdf), Lee Rainie, Michael Cornfield, and John Horrigan of the Pew/Internet find that 29% of the American public got at least some of their political news from the Internet in 2004. Significantly fewer (18%) had gone online to review political news in 2000. In an updated review of Americans' access of political information online, Lee Rainie and John Horrigan of the Pew/Internet report in Election 2006 Online (January 17, 2007,
|TABLE 7.5 Public Website information required under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act|
|source: Laura L. Rogers, “VII. Disclosure and Sharing of Information: Public Website Required Information,” in The Adam Walsh Act: A National
Endeavor to Protect Children and Families, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, SMART Office, July 2008, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/smart/pdfs/awa_search0708.pdf (accessed August 29, 2008)
|• Physical description|
|• Current offense & prior sex offenses|
|• Employer address|
|• Resident address|
|• School address|
|• Vehicle(s) license plate number and description|
http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Politics_2006.pdf) that even though percentages were down somewhat from the presidential election year 2004, still 15% of American adults indicated they had relied most on Internet news sources for their political information during the November 2006 campaign season. (See Table 7.6.) When compared to 2002, the previous off-year election, the percent preferring the Internet had more than doubled. Table 7.6 also shows the dramatic decline in Americans' reliance on traditional media outlets such as television, newspapers, and magazines as information sources for political news.
According to Rainie and Horrigan, most Internet users did not look for their information and political news on official political candidate sites. In 2006, 60% of online political news consumers got their political information from news portals such as Google News or Yahoo! News; another 60% visited the sites of major television news organizations such as CNN.com or ABC-News.com. The Web sites of local news organizations were the third-most popular (48%), followed by the Web sites of major national newspapers such as the New York Times and USA Today. Twenty-four percent preferred to get their campaign news from sites devoted to particular issues under consideration, and 20% opted for blogs. Another 20% opted for news about the campaign from the official Web sites of candidates.
Who Gets Their Political News Online Rainie and Horrigan indicate that roughly one-third of American adults (34% of men and 29% of women) actively used the Internet to gather information about the 2006 election cycle. (See Table 7.7.) One-third (33%) of white adults sought political news online in 2006, compared to less than one-quarter of African-Americans (23%) or English-speaking Hispanics (23%). As with many Internet activities, age was also a factor: nearly four out of ten (39%) adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine went online in search of campaign news, compared to only 13% of those aged sixty-five and older.
|TABLE 7.6 Poll respondents' preferred media for political news coverage during election years, selected years, 1992–2006|
|source: Lee Rainie and John Horrigan, “The Number of Americans Relying on the Internet for Political News Doubled from the 2002 Mid-Term Election and
Grew Fivefold in the Past Decade,” in Election 2006 Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 17, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Politics_2006.pdf (accessed August 21, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.
|RESPONSES FROM ALL ADULTS TO THE QUESTION: HOW HAVE YOU BEEN GETTING MOST OF YOUR NEWS ABOUT THE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS?a|
|aRespondents were allowed to give two responses.|
|bNumbers do not add to 100% because of rounding and multiple answers.|
|cThe 2000 results are based on registered voters only.|
|TABLE 7.7 Demographics of campaign Internet population, 2006|
|source: Lee Rainie and John Horrigan, “Demographics of the Campaign Internet User Population,” in Election 2006 Online, Pew Internet &
American Life Project, January 17, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Politics_2006.pdf (accessed August 21, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.
|31% of online Americans were active in gathering news or sharing emails about the campaign during the 2006 election cycle.|
|Proportion of all Americans in the group who are in the campaign Internet user population|
|Less than HS||11%|
|High school diploma||18%|
Adults who were college educated (57%), had an income greater than $75,000 (54%), or had a broadband Internet connection (53%) were the most likely to have used the Internet to access political news in 2006.
By analyzing the characteristics of those who sought political news online during the 2006 campaign, Rainie and Horrigan find that this group contained a greater portion of men (53%) than women (47%), was overwhelmingly white (77%), and had graduated from college (49%). (See Table 7.8.) In addition, most of the group fell between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine (26%) and thirty and forty-nine (45%), and 83% accessed the Internet using a broadband connection.
Online Participation in the 2008 Presidential Primary Race
During the active months of the 2008 presidential primary season, Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie of the
|TABLE 7.8 Demographic breakdown of campaign Internet users, 2006|
|source: Lee Rainie and John Horrigan, “The Breakdown of the Campaign Internet User Population,” in Election 2006 Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 17, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Politics_2006.pdf (accessed August 21, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.|
|Proportion of the campaign Internet user population that is made up of this group—e.g.53% of such campaign internet users are men, 47% are women|
|Less than HS||4%|
|High school diploma||20%|
Pew/Internet assessed the online political activities of Americans and published their findings in The Internet and the 2008 Election (June 15, 2008, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_2008_election.pdf (accessed August 29, 2008). The researchers reveal that about 50% of men and 43% of women used the Internet to learn about the campaign or share their views with others. (See Table 7.9.) Seventy percent of Americans with an annual income greater than $75,000 were active consumers of online political information in 2008. One-quarter or more of adult Internet users had watched campaign commercials, candidate speeches, or interviews online. (See Table 7.10.) However, the researchers find that people did not necessarily trust the information they accessed on the Internet. Fully six out of ten agreed with the statement that “the Internet is full of misinformation and propaganda that too many voters believe is accurate.” (See Table 7.11.) Nearly half (48%) considered online
|TABLE 7.9 Online political engagement in the presidential primary race, 2008|
|source: Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie, “Online Political Engagement in the 2008 Race,” in The Internet and the 2008 Election, Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 15, 2008, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_2008_election.pdf (accessed August 29, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.|
|THE PERCENTAGE OF ALL ADULTS—INTERNET USERS AND NON-USERS—IN EACH GROUP WHO USE THE INTERNET, EMAIL, OR TEXT MESSAGING TO GET NEWS ABOUT POLITICS OR TO EXCHANGE THEIR VIEWS ABOUT THE RACE|
|Annual household income|
|Less than $30,000||28|
|Less than HS||19|
|Note: Population 2,251.|
|TABLE 7.10 Participation in selected online political media activities, 2008|
|source: Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie, “Political Media Consumption Online,” in The Internet and the 2008 Election, Pew Internet & American
Life Project, June 15, 2008, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_2008_election.pdf (accessed August 29, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew
Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.
|[% who have in the past several months...]|
|All adults||Internet users|
|Watched campaign commercials online||22%||29%|
|Watched video online of candidate speeches or announcements||20||27|
|Watched video online of interviews with the candidates||19||26|
|Watched video online that did not come from a campaign or a news organization||18||25|
|Watched video online of the candidate debates||17||23|
|Read a candidate's position paper on an issue online||16||22|
|Read the full text of a candidate's speech online||9||12|
|Note: Population 2,251 for all adults.|
|Population 1,553 for Internet users.|
information about the same as that available elsewhere, and 28% agreed that the Internet helped them “feel more personally connected” to the candidate of their choice.
|TABLE 7.11 Internet users' views about the role of the Internet in politics, 2008|
|source: Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie, “Internet Users' Views about the General Role of the Internet in Politics,” in The Internet and the 2008 Election, Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 15, 2008, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_2008_election.pdf (accessed August 29, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.|
|[% of Internet users who agree/disagree with these statements...]|
|The Internet is full of misinformation and propaganda that too many voters believe is accurate||60%||32%|
|The news and information you get online is just the same as you can get anywhere else||48||47|
|The Internet lets those with the loudest voices and most extreme positions drown out average people's views||35||56|
|The Internet helps me feel more personally connected to my candidate or campaign of choice||28||67|
|I would not be as involved in this campaign as much if it weren't for the Internet||22||74|
|Note: Population 1,553 Internet users.|
Preferred News Sources
Even though the Internet has quickly developed an enthusiastic audience, when it comes to the basic news sources people use on an average day, television is still number one. Rainie and Horrigan report that 78% of respondents in 2004 named television as their primary source for daily political news. (See Table 7.6.) In terms of all people surveyed, the Internet came in third with only 18% of people citing the Internet as a daily news source in 2004. Two years later, seven out of ten (69%) poll respondents still preferred television as their primary source for political news, one-third (34%) preferred newspapers, and 15% preferred the Internet. Among those who used the Internet, seven out of ten (71%) cited the convenience as a major reason, and nearly half (49%) said they can get information on the Web that is not available elsewhere. (See Table 7.12.) Rainie and Horrigan note differences in media choices among those who voted for Republican candidates and those who voted for Democratic candidates in the 2006 election. Democrats were more likely to prefer television, with 74% citing television as their main source of political news, compared to 69% of Republicans. (See Table 7.13.) Democrats were also more likely to read newspapers (44% to 38%) and to watch network news or CNN. By contrast, Republican voters were more likely to watch Fox News (24%) and to cite radio as a main source of political news.
As with many other Internet activities, having broadband Internet service increased the likelihood that poll respondents would turn to the Internet as their main source of election news. Thirty-eight percent of broadband users primarily got their political news from the
|TABLE 7.12 Reasons poll respondents use the Internet for political news, 2006|
|source: Lee Rainie and John Horrigan, “Some Use the Internet for Politics Because It Is Convenient and Others Use It to Get Extra News or Dig
Deeper into the News,” in Election 2006 Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 17, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_
Politics_2006.pdf (accessed August 21, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.
|ASKED OF CAMPAIGN INTERNET USERS: PLEASE TELL ME IF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING IS A MAJOR REASON YOU GET POLITICAL AND CAMPAIGN NEWS AND INFORMATION ONLINE, A MINOR REASON, OR NOT A REASON AT ALL FOR YOU?|
|Major reason||Minor reason||Not a reason at all||Don't know/ refused|
|Getting information online is convenient||71%||16%||12%||NA|
|You can get information on the Web that is not available elsewhere||49%||24%||26%||1%|
|You don't get all the news and information you want from traditional news sources such as the daily newspaper or the network TV news||41%||33%||23%||NA|
|You can get perspectives from outside your community on candidates and issues||34%||37%||27%||2%|
|You can get local perspectives online about candidates and issues||28%||35%||35%||2%|
|TABLE 7.13 Media choices of Republican and Democratic poll respondents, 2006|
|source: Lee Rainie and John Horrigan, “Media Choices of Republican and Democratic Voters,” in Election 2006 Online, Pew Internet & American Life
Project, January 17, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Politics_2006.pdf (accessed August 21, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew
Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of
|ASKED OF ADULTS: HOW HAVE YOU BEEN GETTING MOST OF YOUR NEWS ABOUT THE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS?|
|Main source of news|
|Voted Republican||Voted Democratic|
|All forms of TV||69%||74%|
|aStatistically significant difference for Democrats compared with Republicans.|
|bStatistically significant difference for Republicans compared with Democrats.|
Internet in 2006, the same percentage that reported reading newspapers and a larger percentage than those who read magazines or listened to the radio. On the whole, the Internet appeared to be eroding the political news audience of both newspapers and magazines. From 1996 to 2006 the number of Americans who considered the news-paper their primary source for campaign information dropped from 60% in 1996 to 34% in 2004, a 43% decrease, whereas the number who turned to the Internet rose from 3% to 15%, a 400% increase. (See Table 7.6.) As broadband continues to find its way into more and more American homes, these numbers will likely continue to shift in favor of the Internet. In 2006 young broadband users (those under age thirty-six) were the most likely to cite the Internet as their main source of election news (35%) and the least likely to watch television (57%). (See Table 7.14.) This contrasted sharply with dial-up users in other age groups. For example, dialup users between the ages of thirty-six and fifty were the most likely to depend on television news coverage for their election information (76%), and dial-up users over age fifty-one were the most likely to read newspapers as their main source of political news (48%).
Political Web Sites
Extensive use of the Internet by political campaigns did not really begin until the 2004 presidential election. Before that time most campaign Web sites simply contained a series of news releases and lists of endorsements for the candidate. In Untuned Keyboards: Online Campaigners, Citizens, and Portals in the 2002 Elections (March 2003, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_IPDI_Politics_Report.pdf), Michael Cornfield, Lee Rainie, and John B. Horrigan indicate that a large percentage of campaign managers believed that Internet fund-raising was neither effective nor easy to implement and that the Internet was not considered a useful way to mobilize volunteers. The fact that most campaign offices did not maintain or know how to maintain a secure Web site compounded the problem. Without such security in place, constituents were reluctant to provide any personal information or make online contributions.
Even though some state and national politicians in the past had employed the Internet piecemeal to raise money or to organize rallies, most analysts agree that the 2004 Howard Dean (1948–) Democratic presidential primary campaign was the first to use the Internet to its potential. The Dean campaign set up a Web site that provided a number of services for supporters. The site contained a link to Meetup.com (http://www.meetup.com/), where supporters could log in, find like-minded Dean supporters in close proximity, and arrange a meeting. The matchmaking site brought together people all over the country and led to hundreds of ad hoc campaign centers for Dean. The Web site also supported an official blog where supporters could read opinions from campaign staffers and comment on the campaign and political issues. By reading the blogs and responses, campaign strategists gained insight into what supporters wanted from Dean. Perhaps the most important feature on the Dean site was the Contribute button. According to Grant
|TABLE 7.14 Poll respondents' preferred media for political news, by age and Internet connection type, 2006|
|source: Lee Rainie and John Horrigan, “Where People Got Most of Their Election News: Comparing Age Groups and Connection Speed,” in Election 2006 Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 17, 2007, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Politics_2006.pdf (accessed August 21, 2008). Used by permission of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.|
|(% of all in each group who say they get most election news from specific source)|
|Under age 36||Between 36 & 50||51 and older|
|Number of cases||496||123||368||114||279||132|
Gross, in “Election 2004: Howard Dean Profits from Web Campaign” (CIO Magazine, January 15, 2004), Dean collected $7.4 million in online donations between April 1 and September 30, 2003, from 110,786 separate online contributors. All told, by the end of September 2003 Dean had raised $25.4 million, which was $5 million more than John Kerry (1943–), who ended up winning the Democratic nomination.
The campaign and the Internet donations also worked within the confines established by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act. This legislation was designed to prevent a relatively small number of organizations and individuals from having disproportionate influence in politics. The laws banned soft money campaign contributions (large donations by corporations, labor unions, wealthy individuals, and special interest groups that skirted federal campaign regulations by supporting political parties rather than individual candidates). The bill also set a maximum political party contribution of $25,000 in hard money per individual. As the Dean campaign revealed, the Internet provided a way for many Americans to contribute smaller sums of money to their favorite candidate, thus making campaign finance more democratic. Many of the other 2004 presidential candidates implemented similar Internet strategies when they saw Dean's success.
Dean's use of the Internet and technology was utilized and improved on by the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, Illinois Senator Barack Obama (1961–), who broke all previous campaign contribution records, raising a total of $750 million over the course of his campaign, $600 million of which came from Internet-based contributions, as reported by his campaign in December 2008. The total surpassed the combined contributions of both John Kerry and George W. Bush during the 2004 presidential race and far exceeded the numbers raised by Obama's Republican rival, Arizona Senator John McCain.
Though Obama spent an estimated $240 million on traditional TV ads during the campaign, he also used Web site ads, e-mails, text messages, and more than a dozen different social networking sites, like Facebook.com and MySpace.com, as well as his own Web site, BarackObama.com, to raise awareness of his campaign and ask for contributions. The use of such technology was especially appealing to a younger, tech-savvy demographic. Obama's strategy was to create an online grass-roots movement that encouraged small contributions of $100 or less from many voters, a strategy that turned out to be very effective. The strategy did not come without controversy, however, as contributors giving less than $200 do not have to be publicly reported, allowing some of the small donors to use fictitious names, some to give more than the $2,300-per-person allowed by federal law for the general election, and some money to come from illegal donors in other countries. The campaign stated that it had safeguards in place and returned money from such donors.
After Obama was elected on November 4, 2008, with Joe Biden (1942–) as vice-president, they continued using online technology to keep Americans informed about the transition to power with their Change.gov Web site, presenting information about the processes leading up to the inauguration on January 20, 2009, a blog, and other information, with president-elect Obama giving weekly video addresses discussing the transition. Obama also promised that the traditional presidential radio addresses would be videotaped and archived on YouTube.com during his presidency.
IT and the Voting Booth
To help bring IT into voting booths, in 2002 Congress passed and the president signed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The act was a direct response to the hotly contested 2000 presidential campaign in which disputes over punch card ballots in Florida contributed to a month-long delay of nationwide presidential election results. The punch card ballots were prone to human error in that people would sometimes punch out the wrong perforated circle or not punch the card all the way through. HAVA required states to upgrade to electronic voting systems by the 2006 national election. The bill allotted $3.9 billion to help states replace old punch card and lever systems with new voting machines. Though HAVA did not specify precisely which voting machines states were required to use, the act did provide a list of features the machines should have. Among other things, the machines should keep an electronic and paper record of the votes, be accessible to those with disabilities, allow voters to review their ballots before they are cast, and notify voters if they misvote (e.g., vote twice for the same office).
The two types of machines that came closest to meeting HAVA's requirements were used heavily in subsequent elections. The first type is the optical scanning (Marksense) voting system. This system operates much like the paper-based standardized tests given in high schools and colleges. Using a dark lead pencil or black ink pen, voters darken ovals next to the names of candidates for whom they wish to vote. With the sheet in front of them, voters can review their ballots before casting them. The sheet is then fed into a scanner. If an error or misvote occurs on the ballot, the scanner spits the ballot out. It is then discarded and the voter votes again. If the ballot is acceptable, the machine scans the ballot using lasers and the votes are registered in the machine. The problem with optical scanning systems, however, is that they are not accessible to disabled people who have trouble seeing or do not have complete control of their fine motor skills.
The second type of machine, known as a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system, covers all the requirements laid down by HAVA. DRE systems are akin to touch screen automated teller machines. The voter stands in front of the touch screen and a list of candidates for a given political contest is displayed on the screen. The voter simply touches the candidate's name to vote for that person, and the machine displays the next list of candidates. DRE systems can be equipped with Braille keyboards and headsets for the blind, and voting choices can be made larger on the screen for those who lack fine motor skills. The machine notifies the voter if he or she has misvoted and allows for a review of votes on a final checkout screen before they are cast. A paper record resembling a spreadsheet is printed out by the machine at the end of the voting day. Proponents claim that the DRE system is better than an optical system because the DRE system eliminates the potential human error involved in coloring in circles and is easier for the disabled.
Even though DRE systems meet HAVA's requirements, controversy still surrounds their use. Many people are concerned that hackers can somehow tap into these systems and change the votes. A second and perhaps more realistic concern is that the complicated computer hardware and software in these systems can malfunction. In “Is E-Voting Safe?” (PC World, April 28, 2004), Paul Boutin discusses a study on DRE systems conducted by computer scientists at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2001. The study concluded that touch screen machines were slightly more accurate than punch card machines. The residual margin of error for the DRE machines, which equates to the percentage of votes thrown out because of error, was 2.3%. This is only marginally better than the 2.5% error generated by old punch card systems. By contrast, optically scanned paper ballots had an error rate of only 1.5%. One possible solution for the DRE systems that some states have implemented is the use of redundant paper ballots. In this instance, receipt printers are attached to the DRE machines. When the person is done voting, the printer prints a version of the person's vote. This paper can then be reviewed and placed into a ballot box for later review if necessary.
The new voting machines did appear to make some difference in the 2004 presidential election. Charles Stewart III of MIT states in “Measuring the Improvement (or Lack of Improvement) in the Voting since 2000 in the U.S.” (January 14, 2006, http://web.mit.edu/cstewart/www/papers/measuring_2.pdf) that the number of votes that had to be thrown out because of error between the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections dropped from 1.9% to 1.1% among those states and counties where the statistics were available. (Note that reported/detected error from election officials may have been lower than the actual error.) Though many factors could have contributed to this reduction, those counties that updated to optical scanning voting machines or DRE systems showed some of the most significant drops in voting error.
However, several reports of malfunctioning DRE systems did surface in the media. In “Results for E-Voting Systems: Mixed” (Information Week, November 8, 2004), George V. Hulme reports that 40 million Americans cast votes on 175,000 touch screen voting machines. However, in Carteret County, North Carolina, forty-five hundred votes were lost when a DRE machine's memory became full and it stopped recording votes. In Miami-Dade County, Florida, voters reported that the checkout screens on various DRE machines displayed incorrect votes. A similar problem occurred in western Washington state when a few badly calibrated touch screens recorded the wrong vote when touched.
VOTING AND THE INTERNET. As the normalcy of conducting many personal transactions over the Internet became more widespread during the early twenty-first century, some observers began to anticipate online voting and suggested that the convenience of voting online would increase voter participation in elections. However, Susannah Fox, Janna Quitney Anderson, and Lee Rainie of the Pew/Internet reveal in The Future of the Internet (January 9, 2005, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Future_of_Internet.pdf), a survey of 1,286 technology experts, that only 32% of those interviewed agreed that network security concerns would be solved to the point that more than half of American votes would be cast online by 2014. Among those who disagreed with this prediction, Peter Denning of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, wrote, “There's a good chance that . . . [by 2014] we will have learned to design robust, trustworthy voting systems. But voter apathy is related not to the voting system but to the perception that the vote counts.” Ted Eytan of Group Health Cooperative in Maryland maintained, “Voting security is likely unobtainable, regardless of the technology. There is too much at stake, and there are too many incentives to corrupt the process. There will need to be a physical representation of a vote in the future.”
511 Travel Information System
Using advanced technology, the federal and state governments have begun putting into place a nationwide travel information system known as 511. The 511 system is an attempt to unify the many automated information systems already operated by state and local governments. Dozens of cities and states set up these systems in the 1990s when cell phones and advanced communications became affordable. Callers and Internet users could retrieve information on traffic jams and road conditions over the phone or on the Internet. For example, the Advanced Regional Traffic Interactive Management and Information System (ARTIMIS) was set up in 1995 to monitor traffic and alert people to traffic problems on 88 miles (142 km) of freeway in the Cincinnati, Ohio, metropolitan area. ARTIMIS used cameras and hundreds of detectors to monitor the flow of traffic along these freeways. People could dial into the system at any time to retrieve the information.
Most of these systems, however, had one big flaw. To access them by phone, drivers typically had to remember an unfamiliar, seven-digit number. Consequently, these services were rarely used. Noticing this problem, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approached the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and asked that a three-digit number be established to connect users to local travel information anywhere in the country. The FCC chose 511. The number was short and would automatically be associated with the more widely used 411 and 911. Ultimately, the DOT wanted all driver information systems to adopt the 511 number so that any driver in the country could receive information by simply dialing 511.
With the support of the DOT, the 511 Deployment Coalition was formed in 2001 by a number of federal and state agencies to establish guidelines and procedures for implementing local 511 travel information systems. The coalition states in America's Travel Information Number: Implementation and Operational Guidelines for 511 Services (September 2005, http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/511/resources/publications/511guide_ver3/511guide3.htm) that 511 services should allow a driver to access automated recordings on travel conditions through a series of voice commands or touch-tone commands on the phone. At bare minimum, the system should provide conditions for major arteries in the designated region.
Many previously developed systems such as the TravInfo service in San Francisco quickly adopted the number for their travel services. The DOT also awarded $100,000 grants to states or cities without traffic advisory systems to fund implementation plans. Figure 7.1 displays the states that used the 511 number and those that received funding to implement a system as of February 2008. Systems in California, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin were expected to begin operating in 2008. According to the 511 Deployment Coalition, in “511 Usage Statistics,” 2,380,004 calls were placed in the 511 network during May 2008, which was a 28% increase over the 1,856,259 calls placed in May 2007. The peak usage during the month corresponded to traffic accidents and bad weather. Usually, call volume is much greater in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer.
National Do Not Call Registry
Another attempt by the federal government to respond to the everyday concerns of the American public is the National Do Not Call Registry (https://www.donotcall.gov/default.aspx), which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Launched in June 2003 with the simple goal of reducing the number of unwanted telemarketing calls received by consumers, the Do Not Call Registry contained more than ten million phone numbers by the end of its first four days of operation, according to the FTC, in 2006 Annual Report to Congress for FY 2006 (April 2007, http://www.ftc.gov/os/2007/04/P034305FY2006RptOnDNC.pdf). By 2007, 145.5 million phone numbers had been submitted to the service in 57 states and U.S. territories. (See Table 7.15.) Under the Telemarketing Sales Rule that outlined the program, commercial telemarketers were allowed to access the list for a fee to continue making unsolicited calls to numbers in their area that were not registered. In addition, telemarketers could continue to call those on the list with whom they
had an established business relationship within the preceding eighteen months. The FTC notes that it had received 1,148,955 complaints during fiscal year 2006 from list members who had received unwanted calls. With more than 132 million telephone numbers registered at the time, the annual complaint rate equaled 0.87%, a figure that the FTC regarded as “indicative of both a high degree of compliance by telemarketers and a meaningful reduction in unwanted calls for consumers.” Even though the original implementation guidelines provided for list registration to expire after five years, legislation effective in 2008 made registrations permanent.
|TABLE 7.15 Do Not Call registrations, 2007|
|source: “Current Do Not Call Registrations as of September 30, 2007,” Federal Trade Commission, National Do Not Call Registry, October 5, 2007,
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/donotcall/pdfs/DNC-Registrations-10-05-20071.pdf (accessed August 29, 2008)
|State name||Total current registrations|
|3 American Samoa||166|
|10 District of Columbia||383,330|
|32 New Hampshire||779,026|
|33 New Jersey||4,905,407|
|34 New Mexico||807,551|
|35 New York||8,893,778|
|36 North Carolina||4,261,677|
|37 North Dakota||314,905|
|38 Northern Mariana Islands||226|
|43 Puerto Rico||216,519|
|44 Rhode Island||544,280|
|45 South Carolina||1,877,234|
|46 South Dakota||369,494|
|52 Virgin Islands||7,497|
|55 West Virginia||666,162|
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