Around the World with E-Government

Global governments are recognizing the power of the Internet and improving their online initiatives, as revealed in an annual study by Accenture, with Canada leading the way. In total, 23 nations were studied and Canada retained the number one position for the second year, with Singapore close behind and the United States in third place.

Canada’s rank can be attributed to its ambitious five-year goal to become the world’s most citizen-connected government by 2004 with plans to provide Canadians with private and secure electronic access to all federal programs and services, at the time and place of their choosing.

The surveyed countries ranked in the following order: Canada, Singapore, the U.S., Australia, Denmark, the U.K., Finland, Hong Kong, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Norway, New Zealand, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Portugal, Malaysia, Italy, South Africa, and Mexico.

Accenture’s research, culled from interviews in 23 countries during January 2002, used methodology that measured service maturity, overall maturity, customer relationship management, and Internet penetration rate. Additionally, Accenture factored in the history, content and ownership of each country’s e-government program; recent political and legal developments; and implementation processes.

The study revealed additional key findings:

  • National governments are articulating key priorities for cross-agency e-government rather than leaving individual agencies to determine their own online presence. However, this remains a primary challenge for many governments.
  • Governments are gradually learning how to measure the cost, impact and result of e-government initiatives, setting clearly defined benchmarks for progress.
  • Collaboration with the private sector is becoming more sophisticated, as governments enter new business arrangements with providers, where risks and rewards are shared and the focus is on delivery of business outcomes.
  • Governments are finally building incentives and marketing into their online programs to build awareness and encourage use of online services – and even targeting and tailoring to specific user segments.
  • Governments increasingly recognize the impact of electronic government not just on citizens, but also on government employees, private-sector organizations, government processes and organizational structures.

“Citizens’ expectations of government have been permanently altered in recent years by forces such as: aging populations, increased service expectations, security concerns, a talent crunch, competition by the private sector and fiscal pressure that forces governments to find ways to do more with less,” said David Hunter, group chief executive of Accenture’s Government group. “End-to-end e-government transactions are emerging as one of the most promising tools for governments to use in achieving real transformation as they deliver public services in the 21st century.”

While Canada can be commended on its efforts to become an e-government visionary, a 2001 study from World Markets Research Centre (WMRC) that analyzed 2,288 government Web sites in 196 nations found that most sites fell short of their potential.

WMRC’s research indicated that only 6 percent of the reviewed sites display their privacy policy and only 3 percent actually have security policies. A disappointing 2 percent of the government Web sites had some form of disability access, with the U.S. leading at 37 percent followed by Ireland at 24 percent.

The most frequent online services involve ordering publications, buying stamps and filing complaints but only 8 percent of the e-government sites surveyed actually offer services that are fully executable online. North America (U.S, Canada, and Mexico) had the highest available executable online services at 28 percent. Almost three-quarters (71 percent) of the Web sites provide access to publications and 41 percent have links to databases of information.

English has become the language of choice for e-government – 72 percent of national government Web sites have an English version – while 45 percent offer two or more languages. Besides English, other popular languages were Spanish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Chinese.

Using methodology that measured the available online information, services and performance for each country, WMRC found the most highly ranked nations to be the U.S., Taiwan, Australia, Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Israel, Singapore, Germany and Finland.

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