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A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago is giving top marks to the City of Seattle for its use of the web for civic engagement — and calling it a tie for the top spot with New York City.

The report from UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs checked out local government websites in the 75 largest U.S. cities, looking for “interactive or participatory opportunities online.”

The study evaluated the cities between March and May 2011, and the outcome compared to a similar 2009 study, finding that “social networking was the category with the most change.”

Nearly nine of the ten largest U.S. cities use both Facebook and Twitter. Overall, 87% of the cities studied used Twitter, compared to 25% just two years earlier. Facebook use, too, rose dramatically, to 87% of the surveyed municipalities from 13% in 2009. YouTube even is represented in 75% of the 75 cities, up from 16%. And “a less prevalent but also potentially important change is the emergence at the local level of open data portals,” including Seattle’s.

Study co-author Karen Mossberger noted, “Seattle has long been an innovator in this area, with programs to address the digital divide online and offline. New York has long used the web for transparency.”

In the earlier study, Seattle was noted for its leadership as having the only city website in 2009 with a discussion board, when it was ranked number two behind San Francisco and Virginia Beach.

In 2011, Seattle moved up and tied for the number one ranking with New York (both with a survey score of 93.33%), followed in the top ten by Virginia Beach, Portland, San Francisco, Kansas City (MO), Denver, Mesa (AZ), Louisville, Philadelphia, Long Beach (CA) / Sacramento (tied for ninth) and San Jose.

Writes the study on Seattle’s website community engagement:

The official website of the City of Seattle encourages communities and groups to participate in both online and offline governmental and community affairs by offering various community technologies (e.g. social media), services, and training programs. For instance, the city website assists registered community websites to be connected with the Data.Seattle.Gov website in which the communities are allowed to update their information, so that it can be easily accessed by residents. The city website also publishes a monthly community technology e-zine, Brainstorm, to publicize opportunities and resources for community-based technology, with an emphasis on programs for youth and residents over 50. For residents interested in governmental affairs, the website provides a citizen guide on local government processes, as well as offline participation opportunities for donating and volunteering, serving on city boards and commissions, and attending city council hearings and neighborhood events.

Coincidentally, it was just announced that Seattle next month will host the first Startup Weekend GOV at Seattle City Hall to see how entrepreneurship can be applied to government organizations.

Previously on GeekWire: Next up for Startup Weekend: Making government move at Internet speed

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