Eighteen percent of States offer on-line foreign language translation

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Sep 14 12:54:52 UTC 2005

Utah and Maine Lead All States in Online Government Services, Says New

>>From PublicCIO
News Staff
Sep 13, 2005

Utah and Maine are at the top of the list for e-government in the United
States, according to the sixth annual e-government analysis conducted by
researchers at Brown University. At the federal level, the White House and
the Department of the State head the list of federal sites. Darrell M.
West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown
University, and a team of researchers examined 1,620 state and federal
sites. The researchers analyzed 1,559 state sites (or an average of 31
sites per state) plus 48 federal government legislative and executive
sites, and 13 federal court sites. They completed their research during
June and July, 2005. Previous e-government studies were released in 2000,
2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004.

Researchers evaluated Web sites for the presence of various electronic
features, such as online publications, online databases, audio clips,
video clips, foreign language or language translation, advertisements,
premium fees, user payments or fees. They also evaluated sites with regard
to disability access, privacy policy, security policy, online services,
digital signatures, credit card payments, e-mail addresses, comment forms,
automatic e-mail updates, Web site personalization, PDA accessibility,
quality control, and readability. West and his colleagues found progress
on several fronts. Seventy-three percent of state and federal sites have
services that are fully executable online, up from 56 percent last year.
In addition, a growing number of sites now display privacy and security
policy statements. This year, 69 percent have some form of privacy policy
on their site, up from 63 percent in 2004. Fifty-four percent now have a
visible security policy, up from 46 percent last year. Eighteen percent of
sites offer some type of foreign language translation, compared to 21
percent last year.

In terms of disability access for the visually impaired. Researchers used
automated Bobby software from Watchfire Inc. to determine that 44 percent
of federal sites and 40 percent of state sites meet the World Wide Web
Consortium (W3C) disability guidelines. The federal numbers are up from 42
percent in 2004, while the state numbers are up from 37 percent last year.
Researchers also studied a number of quality control issues on public
sites. They used Watchfire's WebXM to analyze each of 71 federal agency
Web sites. WebXM automates the scanning, analysis and reporting of online
security, privacy, quality, accessibility and compliance issues across Web
sites. The research team scanned a random sample of 5,000 pages from each
agency and identified online quality issues that affect the user
experience, such as broken links and anchors, missing titles, missing
keywords, missing descriptions, warnings and redirects and poor search
functionality. Nearly every agency had problems with content, search, and

The study also ranks the 50 states and various federal agencies on overall
e-government performance. Using measures such as online services,
attention to privacy and security, disability access, and foreign language
translation, researchers rated the various state sites and compared their
performance to last year. The top ranking states include Utah, Maine, New
Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, Delaware, Massachusetts,
Mississippi, and Nevada. The most poorly performing e-government states
are Wyoming, Alaska, and Alabama. The five states with the greatest
improvement over last year were Mississippi, up 40 places to No. 9; North
Carolina, up 28 to No. 4;  Nevada, up 25 to No. 10; Idaho, up 21 to No.
15; and Michigan, up 17 to No. 5.

This linked table shows where each state ranked in 2005, with the previous
year's ranking or score in parentheses. Top-rated federal Web sites
include the White House, Department of State, Department of Treasury,
Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Social
Security Administration, Housing and Urban Development Department, Federal
Communications Commission, FirstGov (the U.S. portal), and Health and the
Human Services Department. At the low end of the ratings are the various
circuit courts of appeals.

This linked table lists the ranking of federal agencies in 2005, with last
year's rank or score in parentheses. In the conclusion of their report,
West and his research team suggest several means to improve e-government
Web sites. One area where improvement is needed is the ease with which
constituents can navigate through information and services on portal Web
sites. One way to solve the problem would be to provide a tool bar at the
top of each page. This would provide access to all online services at a
central location and also give a look of uniformity to the site, making
users more comfortable while navigating no matter which page the
constituent might be using. Some states provide services on their sites
but do not make the services easily visible or accessible. They could
solve this problem by consolidating access to all the department's
services into one database or by adding icons in the margins of relevant

Few states offer users the chance to customize Web sites to their
particular interests. This option would allow constituents to narrow the
array of information and services that may seem overwhelming. Many states
could also create better portals by creating a visually pleasing site. Few
portal sites were pleasing to the eye.  Characteristically, the
effectiveness and comprehensiveness of sites often waned at sites of
lesser known and less well funded agencies, such as veteran's affairs,
housing, and social services. Tourism sites generally were well designed
and colorful, as were economic development sites.

Federal Web sites tended to be more extensive and informative than states'
sites. In general, additional forums or interactive features would allow
constituents to make better use of the site.


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