The News Service
Third annual Global e-Government Study
Worldwide, most governmental Web sites offer no online services
Governments around the world are using Web sites and the Internet to provide information and services to their citizens. The third annual Global e-Government Survey suggests that actual online services are not as widespread as they could be and that governments have a long way to go toward realizing the promise of Internet communications. A table ranking the governmental Web efforts of 198 countries follows below.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A new study of global e-government undertaken by researchers at Brown University shows that only 16 percent of government agencies around the world are offering online services. While this is up from 12 percent in last year’s study, the research demonstrates that governments have a long way to go toward realizing the promise of electronic government.
The third annual survey, conducted by Darrell M. West of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University and a team of researchers including Adam Deitch and Vanessa Wellbery, measured each country’s online presence. The research evaluated government Web sites on more than two dozen criteria, including available publications, databases, disability access, privacy, security, and the number of online services offered. Previous studies of global e-government were released in 2001 and 2002.
This year’s study reviewed 2,166 government Web sites in 198 countries during June, July and August 2003. Among the sites analyzed are those of executive offices, legislative offices, judicial offices, cabinet offices, and major agencies serving crucial functions of government: health, human services, taxation, education, interior, economic development, administration, natural resources, foreign affairs, foreign investment, transportation, military, tourism and business regulation.
Researchers found that 89 percent of Web sites offered online publications and 73 percent provided links to databases. Only 12 percent displayed privacy policies and 6 percent presented security policies. Government Web sites are lagging on disability access. Only 14 percent of sites provided some form of disability access, such as for the vision- or hearing-impaired
In addition to looking at particular features, researchers also rated countries for overall e-government performance. Using an assessment of number of services plus access to information, disability access, privacy, security and foreign language translation, each country was rated on a 100-point scale. The most highly ranked country was Singapore, followed by the United States, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Turkey, Great Britain, Malaysia, the Vatican and Austria. The following table shows how each of the world's 198 countries ranked on e-government performance.
International e-Government Ratings in 2003
In the conclusion of the report, the research team presents a number of suggestions to improve service delivery and provide access to information. Many Web sites have links to “services” and “e-services” that are not actually either. These links typically lead a user to details about a manual service offered by the department or ministry or to a form in PDF-format that one can download and then mail in. While a step toward online government, the fact that these documents are not fully executable online limits their utility.
In evaluating international Web site performance, one of the most difficult challenges was the slow loading speed of many sites. Slow servers made it very difficult and time-consuming to ascertain information effectively about a country and almost impossible to execute online transactions. In addition, sites that no not post privacy policies should post them; privacy policies for all sites should be plainly visible.
Some sites claimed to meet disability access standards, but in reality were not accessible. Others have special links to disability-friendly versions of the site that also do not pass the access test. Overall, few international Web sites are accessible to the disabled.
Finally, it is important for government officials to update their sites on a regular basis. Many Web sites are outdated both in appearance and content. Some sites included a “Last Updated On” date that suggested the site had been unaltered for several years. The inclusion of the date on which a site was last updated is a valuable means for citizens to be able to determine how current the information is.
For more information on this study, contact Darrell M. West at (401) 863-1163 or e-mail Darrell_West@brown.edu. The full report of the Global E-Government Study is online at www.insidepolitcs.org. An appendix to that report contains detailed profiles of each of the 198 countries studied.