The News Service
Fourth Annual Urban E-Government Study
E-Government in Denver and San Diego Ranks Among Nation’s Best
A study of the 70 largest metropolitan government Web sites shows city governments vary enormously in the extent to which they are placing electronic information and services online and maintaining basic protections for privacy, security and disability access. A table ranking urban government Web sites follows below.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Denver and San Diego are the best cites for electronic government in the United States, according to the fourth annual urban e-government study by researchers at Brown University.
The study was conducted by Darrell M. West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, and a team of researchers which analyzed 1,873 sites maintained by the 70 largest city governments in the country. The researchers examined an average 26.8 Web sites in each urban area, including Web pages for the mayor, city council and major departments and agencies in each city. Research was completed during June, July and August 2004. Previous urban e-government studies were released in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
The study evaluated urban e-government performance based on a number of different dimensions, including the availability of information, the number of online services, privacy and security policies, disability access, foreign language translation, readability, and means of communication between citizens and government.
The researchers found that cities are making progress in placing privacy and security policies online. This year’s study found that 53 percent of city government sites show privacy policies, up from 41 percent in 2003. In addition, 32 percent have security policies, up from 28 percent the preceding year.
Researchers found little progress made in disability access, however. Using automated Bobby software created by Watchfire Inc., researchers found that only 21 percent of sites are compliant with the World Wide Web Consortium standard for disability access. This is about the same as last year (20 percent). City government accessibility this year is below the 42-percent compliance level of federal government sites and the 37-percent level in state government.
This year’s study found that 40 percent of Web sites offer services that are fully executable online, down from 48 percent last year. Seventeen percent of city government Web sites have foreign language translation features, about the same as last year (16 percent). Seventy-one percent of city government sites read at the 12th grade level, which is higher than the reading comprehension of many city residents, according to national literacy statistics.
This year’s highest ranked e-government cities are Denver, San Diego, New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Virginia Beach, Boston, Charlotte, Houston and Seattle. The lowest ranked cities include Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Greenville, Syracuse and West Palm Beach.
The five cities whose rank was most improved since 2003 were Long Beach (up 38 places to 14th), New York City (up 34 places to 3rd), Los Angeles (up 31 places to 5th), Tacoma (up 28 places to 40th) and Columbus (up 23 places to 17th). The five cities whose rank declined the most since 2003 were Buffalo (down 32 places to 56th), Kansas City (down 33 places to 45th), Milwaukee (down 38 places to 57th), Syracuse (down 42 places to 67th) and Oklahoma City (down 55 places to 64th).
Fourth Annual Urban e-Government Rankings
After looking at numerous city Web sites, West and his research team make several suggestions for improvement. City sites that attempt to put everything on one page are cluttered, daunting and overwhelming. Providing services and different forms to the public is helpful, but pages that mix actual online services with forms that must be downloaded, printed and mailed are confusing to users.
Web that list online services reduce the amount of time citizens have to invest in searching for a specific service. The graphic appearance of a site is also a significant factor in the site’s usefulness. Sites that are difficult to read (black background with blue printing, for example, or excessive changes when a cursor moves over type) diminish the site’s efficiency.
For more information about the results of this study, please contact Darrell West at (401) 863-1163 or review the full report online at www.InsidePolitics.org. The appendix of that report provides e-government profiles for each of the 70 cities.