Government Web sites gain favor with public

Government Web sites gain favor with public

The public's satisfaction with e-government services is on the rise.

The new American Customer Satisfaction Index released today reported that more citizens are now finding the information they need online and their approval of government online services matched phone and mail assistance for the first time ever.

The ACSI report, produced by the University of Michigan and ForeSee Results Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich., surveyed 40,000 people and found citizens were generally satisfied with federal Web sites 72.1 times out of 100.

'We are seeing a slow, but steady uptick in customer satisfaction,' said Larry Freed, chief executive officer of ForeSee. 'When you step back from a far, you may think the momentum for e-government is drying up, but what is happening is agencies see e-government as a part of their business process now and the Web is the way to deliver more for less.'

ForeSee and Michigan found a 2.9 percent change in overall satisfaction of four types of federal Web sites in 2004 as compared to 2003. Recruitment and career sites received the highest satisfaction score, 77. Next came transaction services at 73.3, portals and main sites at 72.1, and information and news sites at 71.4.

The top complaint from citizens: the inability to successfully find specific information, the survey found. That's the same chief hurdle reported by the public last year. Freed said users turn first to a site's search function to find something, and if that fails, satisfaction decreases.

As the top government sites, the National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus earned the highest satisfaction score of 86. MedlinePlus' Spanish language version and the library's main Web site also took the second an third spots on the list, each rating an 83.

The National Cancer Institute's main site, the Mint's online catalog, the Education Department's Federal Student Aid application and the General Services Administration's Federal Citizen Information Center also received high approval scores in the low 80s.

'We are on an uphill climb in the amount of people using e-government,' Freed said. 'When you consider that citizen expectations are rising and users are comparing federal sites with private sector sites, agencies are doing exceptionally well.'

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