Government sites see a spike in visits

Government sites see a spike in visits

Government Web sites captured the clicks of more than a third of all domestic Internet surfers last month, suggesting that their attempt to communicate to citizens through the Internet is gaining ground.

Total Internet traffic to government sites leapt by 26 percent from last December to February, including 9 million new visitors who logged on from work or home, according to a report this week by Nielsen/NetRatings, an Internet traffic research firm.

The highest jump of online viewers in that three-month period occurred on the Treasury Department's site, which saw 147 percent more visitors, from 4.8 million to 11.8 million. NASA boasts the second-fastest growth with a 124 percent surge from 2.3 million to 5.2 million unique visitors.

Nielsen/NetRatings analysts pointed to current events, including tax season, the shuttle Columbia's explosion, homeland security and Middle East concerns, as reasons for increases in online visits.

Rounding out the top five sites for growth were the Education Department, which almost doubled its number of visitors to a total 4.3 million last month, and the State Department and White House, which each saw 80 percent more volume.

Despite facing only a 50 percent increase in traffic, the Defense Department site's 8.3 million surfers ranked it the second-most visited government site last month after Treasury. The third, with 7.3 million viewers, was the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new Homeland Security Department site won 837,000 unique visitors in February.

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