Mixed scores for fed sites after Sept. 11

One year later: Sept. 11 and the Internet

Government Web sites became significant news sources for Internet users hungry for information after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project titled "One Year Later: Sept. 11 and the Internet."

The survey, which included 53 government Web sites, found that many of them linked to the FirstGov portal, where a comprehensive list of links and information had been compiled. The information available included the status of the nation's air travel system and a link to an FBI site to report tips.

The report, however, criticized Congress because it failed to use the Internet to communicate with constituents. Most sites simply carried old press releases and were not updated, the report says.

On Sept. 11 and the following days, federal officials worked hard to provide current information to the public, according to Mark Forman, associate director of information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

The government sites were able to expand their server capacities to handle millions, rather than thousands, of hits and to update data on a daily or hourly basis, Forman said.

"We very quickly were able to open up a channel to track down a relative," Forman said.

For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had a small office at the World Trade Center, posted a toll-free number on its Web site asking workers to check in and provided free counseling services for them.

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