Internet and Electronic Dial-Up Bulletin Boards:

Information Reported by Federal Organizations

GGD-97-86: Published: Jun 16, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1997.

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L. Nye Stevens
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on Internet and electronic dial-up bulletin board system (BBS) activities in the executive branch of the federal government, focusing on: (1) fiscal year (FY) 1994 through 1996 expenditures for Internet and BBS activities; (2) the number of World-Wide Web (WWW) sites and dial-up electronic BBSs; and (3) the number of employees with government-provided Internet e-mail and WWW access. Because of the broad scope and relatively short time frame for completing the request, GAO did not independently verify the accuracy of the information provided.

GAO noted that: (1) of the 43 federal organizations to which GAO sent data collection forms, 42 responded and estimated spending a total of about $349 million on Internet and BBS activities in FY 1994 through 1996; (2) in all, they estimated spending about $59 million in FY 1994, about $100 million in FY 1995, and about $190 million in FY 1996; (3) the bulk of these estimated expenditures, about $325 million, were for Internet activities to provide employees access to the Internet and to establish and maintain WWW sites; (4) the remainder of the estimated expenditures, about $23 million for the 3-year period, were for establishing and maintaining electronic dial-up BBSs; (5) the 42 federal organizations reported having a total of about 4,300 WWW sites and about 200 electronic dial-up BBSs; (6) all 42 organizations reported having at least one WWW site, but some reported that they did not use GAO's definition or did not list all sites generally because they do not track this information, and it was not readily available; (7) the 42 federal organizations estimated that they provided Internet e-mail access to about 1.7 million, or about 50 percent, of their civilian and military employees and WWW access to about 1 million, or about 30 percent, or their employees; (8) federal organizations associated numerous benefits with their Internet and BBS activities, including communicating more effectively with colleagues and with the public, easily accessing professional, scientific, or technical information, disseminating information quicker and more cost effectively, and reducing paperwork by conducting the work of the organization electronically; (9) while there is no governmentwide policy or regulations that specifically govern employee use of the Internet, most federal organizations that had guidance for their employees' use of the Internet prohibit any use of government-provided Internet resources for nonofficial uses; (10) a few organizations allow limited personal use; (11) although the Office of Management and Budget is working on governmentwide guidance on establishing and maintaining WWW sites, half the federal organizations reported having developed their own guidance for employees to use to establish and maintain WWW sites; and (12) the potential for misuse of government-provided Internet resources exists, as it does for other types of government-provided resources, such as telephones and copying machines.

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