United we fall

March 8, 2012

The results of the United Nations E-government Survey 2012 have just been released and will be a delight for those who relish league tables and similar things. The reports are available on the United Nations E-government surveys site. I’ve commented upon these surveys previously, including that from 2010, especially on how there seemed to be little citizen involvement in the process. This time around they have shifted some focus to the realization that multiple channels are a necessity in many cases and cover that in a specific chapter, there’s also some mention of co-production, open data, and participation.

Interestingly the top two nations are Korea (Republic of) and the Netherlands. The UK making fourth in E-government and fifth in E-participation. It can’t be the easiest task coming up with a league table of countries related to e-government and e-participation but a few of those in the list for e-participation are hardly renowned for their civil rights let alone participation, so that would be a real challenge in defining it, especially given the earlier debate on these pages surrounding ‘open’ and ‘transparency’.

Anyways, it’ll have kept a few people busy for the past months.


The UN and accessibility

August 18, 2010

An academic report reflecting on and reported by the United Nations eGovMon benchmarking practice has appeared from Norway.  The paper by Nietzio, Olsen, Eibegger and Snaprud, entitled Accessibility of eGovernment web sites: Towards a collaborative retrofitting approach is not freely available and I wasn’t even able to get to it with my Athens login, however an excellent summary can be found at e-governments.wordpress.com.

Looking back upon my own experiences, the accessibility of a website is frequently determined by the content management system (CMS), which this approach accepts. Regular checking, including benchmarking, can demonstrate where the issues are – which is again in the approach. It is also possible to use automated accessibility checkers and highlight issues on an online forum, again, both part of the approach they document. However, part of the difficulty remains in getting the CMS developer to maintain accessibility within their own application as it is developed, gremlins frequently creep in between major re-writes creating a whole range of issues that, being detached from the end-user , they can never seem to see the reasons for fixing.

Further to their proposals, whilst automated accessibility checkers demonstrate the allegiance of the coding to guidelines, this is a machine view and ultimately it is the end-user who identifies the real level of accessibility. My own parsimonious model of collecting (dis)satisfaction data from the user of government services and employing this to improve services is really the only way to test accessibility, not ignoring the value of maintaining continuous checks on web site data. Some of the issues may not be with the website itself but with the processes that underpin it, making the electronic delivery cumbersome or challenging for a user with a disability.

A nice idea but if any UK authorities are not employing these little aids already, I’d be very surprised. What they need to do is employ the feedback one across all channels and utilise the data.


E-government united

April 29, 2010

Finally, although I’d been premature in January  in my post predicting its arrival, the United Nations E-Government Survey 2010 – Leveraging e-government at a time of financial and economic crisis report has appeared.

At 140 pages, and taking up over 7 Mb it’s a biggish download, so for brevity on this occasion, I’ll focus upon the sixth chapter on the topic of “Measuring e-government”.

Interestingly, amongst the draft indicators on page 94 is one labelled EG18 entitled “Degree of satisfaction of e-government service users, disaggregated by gender”, this is obviously in response to the statement on the same page that “Little information is yet available on the demand side of e-government.”

Similarly on page 96 is the phrase “Future work on measuring e-government capacity might usefully expand beyond ICT infrastructure and human resource issues to cover, where feasible, adherence to recommended practice in design of institutional machinery laws, regulations, policies and standards.” Which may help iron out the gender and access issues already raised elsewhere.

Further, confirming my own research, on page 97 it states that “usage of e-government services by citizens is absent from most measurement frameworks.”

The report also considers that demand might be captured by “measuring the percent of requests processed using ICT as a function of the overall number of requests”, along with “the degree of satisfaction of e-government service users.” Whilst I personally would use these measures across all channels to gain panoptical view of service as a whole.

It’s becoming clear that the lack of metrics has finally hit home, particularly ones focused upon outcomes. But, why-oh-why, must we always try to make them as complicated as possible?


Benchmarking the nations

January 17, 2010

The United Nations issue a benchmark report on e-government sporadically and a new one is in the offing, although I’ve seen some countries declaring how well they’ve done already, including Vietnam.

Prior to this years report some academic work was done to reconsider the metrics used in the EU by Alexander Schellong at Harvard, which may or may not have affected the methodology employed by the UN. Interesting though the report is, it still fails to point to the value the citizen might or might not place on e-government, e-governance or the actual government services involved. However he does state that for EU nations “Since Lisbon, benchmarking activities are a cornerstone of the EU’s “open method of coordination””, which explains something of the fixation they have with it and the report now admits that the time for a change has come, since for the study “the most common critique being that the benchmark’s only focus is in on the supply side of eGovernment.”

The report further states “unfortunately, the development of a relevant and universally accepted benchmark for eGovernment will continue to be a challenge around the globe. Many aspects of eGovernment, especially transformation or its impact are difficult to capture.” This is where I believe that (dis)satisfaction comes in, since it picks up on those outcomes from service delivery that is affected by transformation and the delivery itself.

However, as it currently stands, it looks like old-time benchmarking for the EU, with no feedback from the citizen. Although the proposal stands to involve them in setting some new benchmarks at some time in the future…

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On another matter Professor Ann Macintosh of Leeds University is giving a lecture entitled “The Internet, Web 2.0 and ‘having your say’” at the University of York on 17 February 2010 at 6:15 in Room P/L001, Physics. The Great E-mancipator’s author may be lurking in the audience if he can get away from work!

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