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Friday, October 03, 2008

Australia 5th in e-government

Those who like me regularly struggle to find what they want from government websites or do business with a government agency on the internet will be interested to see that Australia came in fifth out of 198 countries surveyed in a report on e-government by Darrell West of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

At the top of the list were South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Singapore, and Canada. Just behind us were Germany, Ireland, Dominica, Brazil and Malaysia, and at the other end of the spectrum, Tuvalu, Mauritania, Guinea, Congo, Comoros, Macedonia, Kiribati, Samoa and Tanzania who barely have a web presence.

Its not clear what websites were examined, how many (apparently less than 10 in each country), or even what level of government. Websites were evaluated for the presence of various features dealing with information availability, service delivery and public access. The Australian sites rated high on many indicators but poorly on security policy, disability access, access in foreign languages and evidence of regular updating and maintenance.

My pet beefs are the limited and poorly organised information about policy research and government decision making, and the lack of tools to assist in finding out what information of potential interest might exist.Oh,and the pathetic search capabilities on the NSW Government website that is supposed to provide access to information about government contracts. See my comments last July.

The following are the topic headings for issues that West suggests governments should address:
"Government websites frequently presented access problems, both at the level of the initial search and the internal navigation- the level of accessibility must be improved.To facilitate broader access, web designers should make government websites available in other relevant languages. To encourage citizen use of online government, website maintenance needs to be improved across the board .The organization of many government websites was problematic with so much information crammed onto their pages that it inevitably led to user confusion. Government websites which present a great deal of dense information could be improved by personalization, which would help to remove clutter.Several basic changes to the layout of government websites such as uniformity could improve organization."

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