Federal agencies ranked from feeble to gifted in digital competence

NASA, White House, Army score high; Interior, Commerce at bottom

NASA, the White House and the Army get top scores for digital media competence, while the General Services Administration is “challenged” and Interior and Commerce departments are “feeble,” according to a recent study.

Interior’s website “allows users to watch Old Faithful gush from their desktop but not much else,” and Commerce “struggles with innovation online,” the L2 think tank'sPublic Sector Digital IQ study said.

As for the GSA’s relatively low score, “we found that agencies that are more consumer-facing did better in the study” than did non-consumer-facing agencies such as GSA, said Maureen Mullen, lead researcher for L2, who discussed the results at the Social Graph seminar at the George Washington University School of Business Jan. 20.

The Digital IQ study ranked 100 federal agencies, advocacy organizations and other public-sector entities to evaluate their digital competence. The ratings considered the organizations’ websites, marketing, social media and mobile technology efforts. The study was first published several weeks ago.


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Overall, 5 percent were ranked at "genius," 20 percent were "gifted," 24 percent were "average," 22 percent were "challenged" and 29 percent were "feeble."

“More than 50 percent of the organizations indexed registered Digital IQs in the feeble and challenged ranks, suggesting that most public-sector organizations have yet to unlock the power of digital platforms,” the study states.

NASA, the White House and U.S. Army earned the top scores of all federal agencies in those areas. “NASA is in its own stratosphere,” the report indicated of NASA’s 184-point genius score.

NASA benefits from having a huge storehouse of exciting digital photographs, video feeds and unique scientific information and has built a large constituency of supporters on the Web with whom it shares that material, Mullen said.

She suggested other federal agencies could learn from that example. The public sector has a lot of information to share, which is very different from the private sector, Mullen said. For that reason, public agencies are often good at sharing on Twitter and other social media sites, she said.

"The public sector is using Twitter very effectively because it is all about disseminating information," Mullen said. For the private sector, it is harder to find a reason to post regular updates if there is no new information, she added.

The White House got 158 points and kudos for leading by example, while the Army scored 145 and got credit for its multiple platforms.

Other scores on the Digital IQ study included:

  • Gifted organizations – Coast Guard, National Science Foundation, Peace Corps, Air Force, Marine Corps.
  • Average agencies and departments  – Agriculture, Defense, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs departments; Internal Revenue Service; National Guard; Navy; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration.
  • Challenged agencies and departments — GSA, Justice Department, Labor Department, Transportation Department.
  • Feeble departments – Commerce, Interior.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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