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Image courtesy of Bizjournals

As politics is played out in D.C. and as a federal shutdown looms large, I wondered what the implications are for online government presence. What happens to government websites, social networking sites and even official email exchanges?

Among some of the interesting discoveries I made:

  • Government employees on furlough are prohibited from working by law – answering emails on official matters counts as working. An April 7th White House memo states what needs to be done if the shutdown goes into effect.  “In that case, agencies must instruct non-excepted employees (including those who do not have a weekend work schedule) that they are prohibited, pursuant to the legal requirements of  the Antideficiency Act,  from performing any work over the weekend pending further notice.  This means that the non-excepted employees will be prohibited, after midnight on Friday night,  from working remotely, such as from home — including by accessing agency information technology (e.g., Blackberries, cell phones, computers, laptops), except to the extent that the agency’s contingency plan provides for the agency to use such technology to provide non-excepted employees with updates regarding their furlough and return-to-work status.  Also, as noted below, there may be circumstances in which certain employees are accessing agency information technolo
  • Federal websites may go dark or stay static. Federal Computer Week reports that according to an Obama official, “most federal websites will not continue to operate. Those that will continue to operate are part of excepted activities, meaning they protect safety of life or property or receive funding from other sources, such as user fees or multi-year appropriations.” So, There will be no excuse for not filing taxes online!
  • According to an answer to a question on Quora, there are 24,000 government websites in the US. This number is based on a 2008-2009 white paper and there seems to be no up-to-date source for a more definite number!

There is little doubt that we are entering a whole new territory with government and electronic media should this shutdown happen. It will be interesting to see where we feel the most impact and the kind of work-arounds that will need to be introduced.

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