How People Search for Governmental Information on the Web

How People Search for Governmental Information on the Web

B. J. Jansen, A. Spink
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch140
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People are now confronted with the task of locating electronic information needed to address the issues of their daily lives. The Web is presently the major information source for many people in the U.S. (Cole, Suman, Schramm, Lunn, & Aquino, 2003), used more than newspapers, magazines, and television as a source of information. Americans are expanding their use of the Web for all sorts of information and commercial purposes (Horrigan, 2004; Horrigan & Rainie, 2002; National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2002). Searching for information is one of the most popular Web activities, second only to the use of e-mail (Nielsen Media, 1997). However, successfully locating needed information remains a difficult and challenging task (Eastman & Jansen, 2003). Locating relevant information not only affects individuals but also commercial, educational, and governmental organizations. This is especially true in regards to people interacting with their governmental agencies. Executive Order 13011 (Clinton, 1996) directed the U.S. federal government to move aggressively with strategies to utilize the Internet. Birdsell and Muzzio (1999) present the growing presence of governmental Web sites, classifying them into three general categories, (1) provision of information, (2) delivery of forms, and (3) transactions. In 2004, 29% of American said they visited a government Web site to contact some governmental entity, 18% sent an e-mail and 22% use multiple means (Horrigan, 2004). It seems clear that the Web is a major conduit for accessing governmental information and maybe services. Search engines are the primary means for people to locate Web sites (Nielsen Media, 1997). Given the Web’s importance, we need to understand how Web search engines perform (Lawrence & Giles, 1998) and how people use and interact with Web search engines to locate governmental information. Examining Web searching for governmental information is an important area of research with the potential to increase our understanding of users of Web-based governmental information, advance our knowledge of Web searchers’ governmental information needs, and positively impact the design of Web search engines and sites that specialize in governmental information.

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