When it comes to online government, Taiwan and Singapore do better than Canada and the U.S.
That’s the finding of a global e-government study by researchers at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The Fourth Annual Global e-Government Study, which reviews digital government in 198 nations, ranks the U.S. and Canada third and fourth behind Taiwan and Singapore in overall e-government performance.
The study offers heartening as well disappointing news. On the bright side it reveals that 21 percent of government agencies around the world are offering online services, up from 16 percent in 2003, 12 percent in 2002, and 8 percent in 2001.
But it says budget, bureaucratic and institutional factors are slowing down the advance of e-government.
The survey was conducted by a team of researchers at the Taubman Centre for Public Policy at Brown University, led by Darrell West, a professor of political science and director of the Taubman Centre. Previous global e-government studies were published by the University in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
This year’s study evaluates government Web sites on 24 criteria, including availability of publications, databases, disability access, privacy, security, and the number of online services offered.
It appraises the performance of 1,935 government Web sites during the months of June, July, and August 2004. The study analyzed Web sites of executive, legislative, judicial and cabinet offices, as well as those of government agencies in crucial areas such as health, human services, taxation, education, interior, economic development, administration, natural resources, foreign affairs, foreign investment, transportation, military, tourism and business regulation.
Researchers found 89 percent of the Web sites have online publications, while 62 percent include links to databases. Only 14 percent (up from 12 percent in 2003) show privacy policies and 8 percent present security policies (up from 6 percent in 2003).
Automated software provided by Waltham, Mass.-based Watchfire Inc. helped evaluate disability access in government Web sites, and revealed that most sites are badly lagging behind in this area.
Only 14 percent of sites provide some form of disability access, such as assistance for the vision- or hearing-impaired – a figure unchanged since 2003. In addition to looking at specific features, researchers also rated countries for overall e-government performance.
Using an assessment based on the number of services as well as information access, disability access, privacy, security and foreign language translation, they rated each country on a 100-point scale. The most highly ranked country is Taiwan, followed by Singapore, the United States, Canada, Monaco, China and Australia.
Some countries moved up significantly since last year, adding a range of new and enhanced features to their Web sites.