GOVERNMENT is the official source of a lot of information like public office listings, cities and barangays, population and other demographics.

This is why people here or abroad who need official information about the Philippines resort to checking online sources. They go to search engines or websites they’re familiar with for government data.

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But government websites that carry useful content and are updated regularly are sadly few. Many of these websites were created for the wrong reason. At the time when going online or tapping the Internet was seen as a modern thing to do, government agencies decided to put up websites for online presence only.

This is so the government office could have a .com or a .com.ph after the www and the agency’s initials. It looked cool, nice, to have an Internet address below the office name in the stationery.

Years down the line, and with people relying more and more on information available online, these government websites lost their relevance.

The lack of seriousness in putting the organization and its data online is reflected in the way many of the government websites are being run. Not as a priority and with little or no funding. The website was for mere show.

Except that the Internet is becoming too important to be something for display only.

I’m glad the Cebu Provincial Board has found it fit to call attention to the sad state of many government websites. A Sun.Star Cebu report Monday quoted Provincial Board Member Sun Shimura as saying inaccurate or outdated data on government websites could cause confusion. He drafted a resolution for the Provincial Board to ask the Department of Transportation and Communications, National Computer Center and National Information Technology Council to take action on “ineffective or inefficient” government websites.

A Board statement could only prod the proper government agencies but that is enough to call attention to the problem of confusing government information on the web where anyone can access the data anytime and from anywhere.

As more Filipinos resort to Internet usage, the more government should invest money and soul to their online responsibilities.

The Philippines has been in the top 20 countries in terms of Internet users. The number of Internet users in the Philippines grew by 1,385 percent or from 2 million in year 2000 to 29.7 million in 2010.

According to the Internet World Stats website (www.internetworldstats.com), that shows a current Internet penetration of 29.7 percent out of a population of 99.9 million. Internet penetration means the share of the population made up of Internet users, the website said. These figures place the Philippines in the number 16 spot in the Top 20 Countries listing, ahead of Spain, Mexico, Canada and Vietnam.

These numbers were updated on June 30, 2010 by the Internet World Stats, an international website that features “up to date world Internet usage, population statistics and Internet market research data, for over 233 individual countries and world regions.”

Those figures mean Filipinos are quickly adapting to the online environment and are using the Internet to get useful information.

That is something for the government websites to consider.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)