Report finds viewer surge in government websites

By Rob O’Brien

The financial crisis has been credited with a surge in viewers of government websites with the Bureau of Meteorology leading the way, according to analysis firm Hitwise.

According to the report, Ensuring Government Services are Reaching Communities, government websites experienced a 10.4 per cent year-on-year growth to March 2009.

The report was put together to illustrate how government websites compared to the mainstream media as a prefered source of information, but also whether they were meeting community needs by raising awareness of their services.
The Bureau of Meteorology was the leading government website with an overwhelming 44.8 per cent share of visits in March 2009, and was also the leading news and media website ahead of major publishers.

The report included a case study on how the Australian community reacted online to the Victorian bushfires.

Unsurprisingly, research found that the leading media players such as ABC News online, Google News Australia and The Age all trumped government websites during the height of the Victorian bushfires.

Searches for information around the bushfires also demonstrated that the community was more likely to turn to mainstream media websites rather than online government services for vital updates and education around bushfire safety.

The increase in visits, which also outstripped US and UK usage in the year to March 2009, showed that online government services were becoming increasingly useful.

"As times get tough during the economic downturn, government will play an increasingly important role in providing vital services to the community,” Hitwise Senior Analyst, Sandra Hanchard said.

“The effective delivery of these services through the online channel can result in cost-savings for government and potentially improve community wellbeing."

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