Governments still have far to go in improving levels of accessibility and making government Web sites easier to find if they want to increase the efficiency of e-government, according to a new draft report from independent research and policy institute Brookings.
And Web designers should consider making available, or improving, foreign language versions of their Web sites to ensure government is accessible to all citizens and to interested foreigners.
The report, Improving Technology Utilization in Electronic Government around the World, 2008 by Darrell M West is in line with other reports in finding Australia is still doing well, and the US losing ground, in their overall e-government performance.
“In technology utilization, the United States has fallen behind countries such as South Korea and Taiwan. The most highly ranked e-government nations in this study are South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Singapore, Canada, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Dominica, Brazil and Malaysia. At the other end of the spectrum, countries such as Tuvalu, Mauritania, Guinea, Congo, Comoros, Macedonia, Kiribati, Samoa and Tanzania barely have a Web presence,” the report says.
But it finds overall, government Web sites frequently present access problems, both at the level of the initial search and the internal navigation. Too many sites are hard to find, it says, and government server timeouts happen frequently.
It also finds that in order to encourage citizen use of online government, Web site maintenance needs to be improved across the board.
“Site maintenance and updating presented many problems. Once the accessibility difficulties were surmounted and the sites were found, many of them contained broken internal links or presented versions that, though ostensibly available, did not function properly or offer complete information. Some of these broken links simply frustrate and confuse the user, while others may lead to commercial sites with irrelevant advertisements. Another common maintenance issue was that many of these sites have not been updated in years.
A problematic example of this difficulty was found on the Somalia Official Government Web site, which prominently featured a section entitled "Daily News Updates". The most recent news report in that section, however, covered the 2006 attacks on the president of Somalia's convoy, which killed his brother.
Internal links should function properly, Web sites should maintain and update content regularly, and English language versions (if available) of various Web sites should be as easily navigable and complete as the original versions.”
The report was based on a detailed analysis of 1667 national government Web sites in 198 nations around the world undertaken in (northern) Summer 2008. It includes whatever political system exists in a country, the public benefits from interactive features that facilitate communication between citizens and government.
Many governmental units have embraced the digital revolution and are putting a wide range of materials — from publications, databases to actual government services — online for citizen use.
It finds across the world, 50% of government Web sites offer services that are fully executable online, up from 28% last year. Ninety-six percent of Web sites this year provide access to publications and 75% have links to databases. Only 30% of government Web sites show privacy policies and 17% have security policies.
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