Distributed September 16, 2002
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel
Third annual ‘e-government’ survey
Governments improve Web security but offer more restricted areas
The third annual survey of state and federal “e-governments” conducted at Brown University shows that government Web sites have improved their security and privacy provisions over last year. However, there has been a proliferation of Internet services and Web sites that offer access only to registered users or in some cases only to users who pay fees. Top e-government states this year include Tennessee, New Jersey, California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The latest analysis of “e-government” conducted by researchers at Brown University has found that Web sites and Internet services offered by state and federal government agencies are devoting more attention to security and privacy but also are creating a larger number of restricted areas online.
Darrell M. West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, and a team of public policy students examined 1,265 state and federal Web sites and evaluated the variety and quality of the electronic services they offered. The researchers ranked those sites on a 100-point scale based on information and service availability, quality of citizen access, and material that would help citizens hold leaders accountable. Of the sites evaluated, 1,206 were state government sites (an average of 24 per state), 46 were federal legislative or executive sites, and 13 were federal court sites. Previous studies were released in 2000 and 2001. Financial support for these projects was provided by Brown University.
Since the last study, which was issued Sept. 10, 2001, governments are taking security and privacy measures much more seriously than they did in previous years. Forty-three percent of government Web sites displayed privacy policies, up from 28 percent in 2001. Thirty-four percent now have a visible security policy, up from 18 percent last year.
The increased attention to security, however, has created an increase in the presence of restricted areas on government Web sites that require usernames and passwords. Six percent of sites have restricted areas and 1 percent have areas requiring payment for entry. Governments are creating restricted areas for a variety of reasons, such as an interest in providing services and a greater focus on security. The danger of premium sites requiring payment and restricted areas, West said, is that they encourage the creation of a “two-class” e-government system, where free and open access to governmental services is not available to all.
In addition, there was a substantial drop in government responsiveness to e-mail queries. Using a short question – “I would like to know what hours your agency is open during the week. Thanks for your help” – researchers sent e-mails to the human services department within each state. E-mail responses were recorded based on whether the office responded and how long it took in business days. In general, public officials were not as responsive this year as last. Where 80 percent answered the sample query last year, only 55 percent did so this year.
The study ranked the 50 states on overall e-government performance. Using measures such as online services, attention to privacy and security, disability access, foreign language translation and Web site personalization, among other features, the research team rated the various state sites and compared their performance to last year. The top ranking state was Tennessee with 56 out of the possible 100 points, followed closely by New Jersey (55.0), California (54.8), Connecticut (53.3) and Pennsylvania (52.9). The states achieving the lowest rankings were Wyoming (34.8), Alabama (35.8) and Mississippi (37.4). The following table shows where each state ranked in 2002, with the previous year’s ranking or score in parentheses.
State rankings for 2002
States which have risen 15 or more places since last year’s rankings include New Hampshire (up 34 places), Nevada (up 23), Connecticut (up 20), Illinois (up 20), Oklahoma (up 18), New Jersey (up 16), New Mexico (up 16) and Arizona (up 15). States which have lost 15 or more places include Louisiana (down 28 places), Maine (down 20), Wisconsin (down 20), Colorado (down 18), and Michigan (down 17).
Among federal sites, the Federal Communications Commission scored a 92, followed by the Department of Labor (88), the Environmental Protection Agency (84), the Department of Treasury (84), the Department of State (84), the Social Security Administration (80) and the FirstGov portal (80). The federal sites that had the lowest ratings were the various Circuit Courts of Appeal. The following table lists the ranking of federal agencies in 2002, with last year’s rank or score in parentheses.
Federal rankings for 2002
Federal Web sites which have risen 15 or more places since last year’s rankings include the State Department (up 33), White House (up 25), FirstGov portal (up 24), Central Intelligence Agency (up 23), U.S. Senate (up 19), Department of Labor (up 19), Department of Commerce (up 18), Department of Justice (up 17), Environmental Protection Agency (up 16), U.S. House (up 16), Federal Trade Commission (up 15) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (up 15).
Sites which have lost 15 or more places include the Food and Drug Administration (down 40), Department of Veterans Affairs (down 24), Department of Defense (down 23), Consumer Product Safety Commission (down 21), Housing and Urban Development (down 21), and Small Business Administration (down 15).
In the conclusion of their report, West and his research team suggest several means to improve e-government Web sites. Among their recommendations are the following:
For more information about the results of this study, contact Darrell West at (401) 863-1163 or see the full report at www.InsidePolitics.org. The appendix of that report provides profiles of e-government offerings for each of the 50 states and the federal agencies.