New Pew Report: Information searches that solve problems - How people use the internet, libraries, and government agencies when they need help

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new study that looks at how people use a variety of information sources to help them address some common problems that could be related in some way to government agencies and programs.

Some major findings of Information searches that solve problems: How people use the internet, libraries, and government agencies when they need help:

  • The internet is a go-to source. In general, more people turn to the internet (at home, work, libraries or other places) than any other source of information and support, including experts and family members. There was some variance in the results, depending on the type of problem people faced. Experts mattered most when people faced health problems; government agencies topped the list when information about specific programs was the concern.
  • Searchers usually end up satisfied. People tended to use two or three information sources in their quest and they generally report good results, especially when they consult government agencies, librarians, and the internet.
  • Libraries meet special needs. Young adults in Generation Y (age 18-29) are the heaviest users of libraries when face these problems. They are also the most likely library visitors for any purpose. Most of those who visit libraries to seek problemsolving information are very satisfied with what they find and they appreciate the resources available there, especially access to computers and the internet.
  • Digital divides matter. Compared to those who have broadband connections, people who do not use the internet or who only use dial-up connections have different problems and different search strategies when they face personal issues. We call this group the low-access population and they are less successful than those with high-access to the internet in getting the material they need to address these problems.
  • Government documents should be created and delivered in all shapes and sizes. A plurality of respondents said they prefer access to government documents on the internet, but significant numbers said they still would prefer to get printed government publications by mail or from government offices and libraries.
  • E-government is not an option, it’s a necessity. The vast majority of Americans want and expect information about government programs to be available on the internet. People have different preferences for dealing with government, depending on the issue they face. They prefer to use the internet for information queries, but they want to use the phone or face-to-face visits to address more personal matters.
The full report is available in PDF.

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