E-Goverment Makes Strides in Past Year

E-government, which refers to the delivery of government information and services online through the Internet or other digital means, made good progress in past year, according to surveys by researchers at Brown University’s Taubman Center for Public Policy.

One of the studies looked at the features available online at state and federal government Web sites and examined the differences that exist across the 50 states and between the state and federal governments. It analyzed 1,680 state and federal government Web sites and measured the information and services offered online.

The state and federal study found that e-government made good progress from 2000 to 2001. The study found that more information, services and interactive features are available online in 2001, and that governments have made excellent progress developing “one-stop” portals that integrate Web service delivery. Problems remain in the areas of privacy, security and special needs populations such as the handicapped.

According to the study, there were big improvements in access to publications (93 percent in 2001 vs. 74 percent in 2000) and databases (54 percent in 2001 compared to 42 percent in 2000). One-quarter of the Web sites examined in 2001 offered services that were fully executable online, up slightly from 22 percent in 2000. The most frequent service offered was the ability to file taxes online, being able to order publications online, filing complaints, registering vehicle registrations and ordering hunting licenses.

Features of State and Federal Web Sites
Feature 2000 2001
Access to publications 74% 93%
Databases 42% 54%
Fully executable services 22% 25%
Privacy and security policies 7% 28%
Disability access 15% 27%
Foreign languages 4% 6%
Source: Brown University

A growing number of sites are offering privacy and security policy statements on their Web sites. The study found that 28 percent had some form of privacy policy on their site, up from 7 percent in 2000. Eighteen percent now have a visible security policy, up from 5 percent in 2000. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of government Web sites have some form of disability access, up from 15 percent in 2000. Only 6 percent of sites offered any sort of foreign language translation feature, up slightly from the 4 percent found in 2000.

In general, the Brown study found that federal government Web sites did a better job of offering information and services to citizens than did state government Web sites. But government officials were not as responsive in terms of responding to email queries. Compared to 91 percent that answered the study’s sample query in 2000, only 80 percent did so in 2000.

Another Brown study, which examined the Web sites maintained by city government agencies in America’s 70 largest cities, found cities need to devote more effort to providing citizens with effective access to online information and services.

For the city survey, researchers at Brown searched 1,506 sites for 28 separate features and evaluated the sites on a 100-point scale. The scale measured the availability of information and services, the quality of citizen access and the amount of material that would help citizens hold leaders accountable. San Diego, Albuquerque, Seattle, Washington, Salt Lake City, Virginia Beach and Kansas City ranked among the leaders, but only San Diego, with a score of 52.9, scored better than 50 on the 100-point scale.

Among the findings of the survey:

  • 64 percent of sites provide access to publications
  • 14 percent show privacy policies; 8 percent had visible security policies
  • 13 percent offer services that are fully executable online
  • 11 percent have some type of access for people with disabilities
  • Less than 1 percent of sites included commercial advertising

Seven percent of the sites were found to be multilingual. Dallas, Hartford and Orlando included foreign language accommodations on most of their sites. Police departments were among the sites most likely to offer bilingual services.

The city services most likely to be online were a facility for motorists to pay parking tickets (30 sites) and for citizens to file complaints about street lights, rodent control and potholes (27 sites).

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