RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook are the most common Web 2.0 applications used by local governments, according to a recent survey by the Washington-based Public Technology Institute (PTI). The technology allows officials to keep residents informed and involved in their city or county government.

Three-quarters of the survey respondents said they use RSS feeds, which automatically send Web site updates to subscribers, to provide news and updates to residents. Seventy-two percent use Twitter to "push" news to residents, particularly emergency and public safety alerts, and the same number use Facebook to communicate with residents, sometimes targeting specific groups, such as youths, seniors or visitors. "These survey results indicate that local governments are quickly taking advantage of these tools to enhance citizen engagement," said PTI Executive Director Alan Shark in a statement.

The survey also found that 57 percent of the survey respondents are currently using or implementing YouTube, primarily to promote events and programs. Some jurisdictions use YouTube to extend the reach of and to market their government access channel programming. Forty-three percent of respondents use blogs aimed at residents and staff, and all of the responding local governments report using internal "wikis" — Web sites that use wiki software to create editable, interlinked Web pages — primarily for staff project management, information sharing and collaboration.

Additional tools currently being used or explored include mashups, especially with GIS and Google maps; Flickr; MySpace; LinkedIn; Nixle for public safety; CoverItLive; and other options for social voting, instant messaging and digital publishing. The PTI survey of local government IT executives, e-government directors and Web managers was conducted survey in August 2009. Three hundred fifty U.S. cities and counties were asked to participate in the survey, and 15 percent responded.

The entire survey is available at www.pti.org.