New data from technology companies Cloudflare and ZenCity help to illustrate when, how and to what extent interaction with government online has changed since COVID-19 led to widescale shutdowns across American society.
As Americans have shifted to sheltering in place en masse, their eyes have turned toward government.
New data from technology companies shows that traffic to government websites, as well as interactions with government social media accounts, has increased dramatically as the COVID-19 pandemic has stifled normal life. And that makes sense, since governments are experiencing an influx of unemployment insurance claims, and they are also providing regular updates on the number of cases in their jurisdictions as well as tips for staying safe and estimates of how long it might be before people can stop sheltering.
Numbers provided to Government Technology by John Graham-Cumming, chief technology officer of Cloudflare — which provides content delivery network services that give it a broad insight into Web traffic across the world — show that visits to federal, state and local government websites nearly doubled from Jan. 12 to April 3:
That data also helps illustrate exactly when things started changing dramatically, which was in mid-March.
Meanwhile, the civic engagement and 311 company ZenCity found an increase of about 35 percent in social media interactions related to local government and civic institutions across its public-sector clients:
The data reflects all kinds of social media interactions — likes, comments, shares, etc. — among accounts for official government agencies and local businesses as well as posts that come from those jurisdictions or use keywords associated with them, according to ZenCity CEO Eyal Feder. The company then takes those posts and uses its technology to sort them into categories and “key concerns,” which it has been publishing blog posts about regularly during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We pick up that conversation and make sense of it,” Feder said.
The data is unweighted, and comes from about 120 governments in 26 states that have more than 25 million residents among them.
The company also found that social discourse was increasing across all different kinds of channels, but had risen particularly dramatically on accounts associated with mayors and other elected officials. Department accounts saw smaller increases:
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