Wyatt Kash | At your service

Editor's Desk | Commentary: Agencies' success at e-government is on the rise, but so are users' expectations

Wyatt Kash

Three recent studies cast instructive light on the state of e-government in the United States ' and on government information technology operations more broadly.
One comes from the University of Michigan, which measured Web site and e-government customer satisfaction. The study found that most federal sites still trail private-sector sites ' but several earned world-class ratings. Three belong to the Social Security Administration ' those offering help with benefits, Medicare prescription drug plan costs and business services. Another is USA.gov. What they have in common is the ease with which the public can find information and make e-commerce transactions.

A second study, from Brown University, ranked federal and state government Web sites based on available online features. Its latest report, released last month, found that 86 percent of state and federal sites have fully executable online services, up from 77 percent last year. Such services help citizens accomplish more online and lower agency costs. The study also noted, however, that information on many sites remains poorly organized; only 22 percent offered foreign-language translation ' down from 30 percent last year; and more than half are written at a 12th grade reading level, about four grades above the national median.

USA.gov again stood out, cited for being translated into 28 languages, offering e-mail updates, Really Simple Syndication feeds, live chat and 180 online services. Web sites from the Agriculture and Commerce departments, U.S. Postal Service, SSA, and Securities and Exchange Commission won top marks among federal sites; Delaware, Michigan, Maine, Kentucky and Tennessee were ranked highest for their state Web sites.

The third study, from Accenture, measured how well national governments deliver on the promise of customer service and concluded that the United States had slipped from second to third place, behind Singapore and Canada. The Internet and new technologies have helped governments improve citizen services, but the study found that back-end infrastructures have often failed to keep pace. It also found that government workforces need to be better aligned to deliver services over the Internet.

All three reports (available at GCN.com/843) suggest that e-government has come a long way, but so have the citizens' expectations. As such, they deserve the attention of agency chiefs, not just IT staffs.

Wyatt Kash, Editor in chief

E-mail: [email protected]

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.


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