To order raw e-government data, visit http://www.InsidePolitics.org/egovtdata.html

 

Fifth Annual State and Federal E-Government Study

 

Tennessee and Maine are Best States for American E-Government

 

A study of digital government in the 50 states and major federal agencies also finds that FirstGov (the U.S. portal) and the Social Security Administration are the top-rated federal sites.

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Tennessee and Maine are the best states for e-government in the United States, according to the fifth annual e-government analysis conducted by researchers at Brown University. FirstGov and the Social Security Administration are the most highly rated federal sites.

 

Darrell M. West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, and a team of researchers examined 1,629 state and federal sites. The researchers analyzed 1,569 state sites (or an average of 31.4 sites per state) plus 60 federal sites. Research was completed during June, July, and August, 2004. Previous e-government studies were released in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.

 

Websites are evaluated 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, disability access, several measures of privacy policy, multiple indicators of security policy, presence of online services, the number of online services, digital signatures, credit card payments, email addresses, comment forms, automatic email updates, website personalization, PDA accessibility, quality control, and readability level.

 

The results show that progress has been made on several fronts. In terms of online services, 56 percent of state and federal sites have services that are fully executable online, up from 44 percent last year. In addition, a growing number of sites offer privacy and security policy statements. This year, 63 percent have some form of privacy policy on their site, up from 54 percent in 2003. Forty-six percent now have a visible security policy, up from 37 percent last year. Twenty-one percent of sites offer some type of foreign language translation, up from 13 percent last year.

However, little progress has been made in providing disability access. Using automated Bobby software available from Watchfire, Inc., 42 percent of federal sites and 37 percent of state sites meet the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) disability guidelines. The states numbers are up from 33 percent in 2003, while the federal numbers are down from 47 percent last year.

 

There are also a number of quality control issues on public sites.  To measure these quality problems, we used WebXM, Watchfire's enterprise platform to analyze each of the 50 state government portals. The WebXM platform scans enterprise websites regardless of size or complexity, and identifies compliance, quality and risk issues. For this project the WebXM quality module was used to scan a random sample of 5,000 pages from each state and identify online quality issues that impact the user experience, such as broken links and anchors, broken links, missing titles, missing keywords, missing descriptions, warnings and redirects and poor search functionality. Nearly every state has a large number of sites with content, search, and design problems.

 

The study 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 Tennessee, Maine, Utah, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas, Delaware, and New Jersey. The most poorly performing e-government states are West Virginia, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The following table shows where each state ranked in 2004, with the previous year's ranking or score in parentheses.

 

Rank

State

Rating Out of 100 Pts

Rank

State

Rating Out of 100 Pts

1.(4)

Tennessee

56.5(41.4)

2.(25)

Maine

55.2(37.4)

3.(17)

Utah

54.6(38.1)

4.(8)

New York

53.6(40.5)

5.(11)

Illinois

51.0(39.7)

6.(1)

Massachusetts

51.0(46.3)

7.(3)

Indiana

46.0(42.4)

8.(4)

Texas

44.5(43)

9.(24)

Delaware

44.2(37.4)

10.(13)

New Jersey

41.3(39.6)

11.(5)

California

41.2(41.1)

12.(22)

Connecticut

40.3(37.9)

13.(9)

Florida

39.9(40.3)

14.(21)

Kansas

39.9(38)

15.(7)

Pennsylvania

39.3(40.5)

16.(37)

Arkansas

39.2(34)

17.(10)

Kentucky

39.0(40)

18.(15)

Arizona

38.8(39.1)

19.(34)

Oregon

38.6(34.9)

20.(26)

Ohio

38.5(37.4)

21.(28)

Louisiana

38.2(36.6)

22.(6)

Michigan

38.0(40.6)

23.(16)

Washington

37.8(38.6)

24.(19)

Virginia

37.7(38.1)

25.(31)

Georgia

36.9(35.8)

26.(23)

N. Hampshire

36.0(37.6)

27.(39)

Colorado

35.5(33.1)

28.(14)

S. Dakota

35.5(39.5)

29.(33)

Rhode Island

35.4(35.3)

30.(29)

N. Dakota

35.3(36.4)

31.(20)

N. Carolina

34.8(38)

32.(18)

Maryland

34.4(38.1)

33.(43)

Montana

34.1(32.7)

34.(27)

Minnesota

34.0(36.8)

35.(32)

Nevada

33.7(35.7)

36.(30)

Idaho

33.7(35.9)

37.(35)

Iowa

33.3(34.6)

38.(12)

Missouri

33.0(39.7)

39.(50)

Alaska

32.8(30.3)

40.(45)

Hawaii

32.3(32.1)

41.(44)

Vermont

31.3(32.3)

42.(42)

S. Carolina

30.6(32.7)

43.(36)

Wisconsin

30.0(34.2)

44.(46)

Alabama

29.9(31.9)

45.(38)

Oklahoma

29.8(33.2)

46.(49)

New Mexico

28.8(30.3)

47.(48)

Nebraska

28.5(31.3)

48.(40)

Wyoming

28.4(33)

49.(47)

Mississippi

26.8(31.5)

50.(41)

West Virginia

26.0(32.7)

 

Top-rated federal websites include FirstGov (the U.S. portal), Social Security Administration, Department of Education, Federal Communications Commission, Department of Agriculture, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Reserve, General Services Administration, Postal Service, and the House of Representatives. At the low end of the ratings are the various circuit courts of appeals. The following table lists the ranking of federal agencies in 2004, with last year's rank or score in parentheses.

 

Rank

Site

Rating Out of 100 Pts.

Rank

Site

Rating Out of 100 Pts.

1.(1)

FirstGov portal

88(84)

2.(3)

Soc Security Admin

65(69)

3.(21)

Dept of Education

61(51)

4.(2)

Fed Comm Com

60.0(73)

5.(11)

Dept of Agriculture

56(56)

6.(4)

Internal Revenue Serv

56(68)

7.(31)

Fed Reserve

54(45)

8.(13)

Gen Services Admin

54(56)

9.(6)

Postal Service

54(68)

10.(35)

House of Rep.

53(42)

11.(12)

Dept of Defense

52(56)

12.(9)

Housing/Urban Dev

52(62)

13.(33)

NASA

52(44)

14.(22)

Dept of Transportation

51(51)

15.(7)

Dept of Treasury

50(64)

16.(45)

Dept of Interior

50(36)

17.(25)

Dept of Energy

49(49)

18.(38)

Govt Printing

49(41)

19.(5)

Library of Congress

49(68)

20.(27)

Gen Account Office

48(47)

21.(53)

Natl Endow Arts

46(32)

22.(8)

Sec/Exchange Comm

46(64)

23.(28)

Veterans Affairs

46(47)

24.(30)

Cent Intelligence Ag

45(45)

25.(10)

Cons Product Safety

45(57)

26.(16)

Dept of State

45(54)

27.(20)

Health/Human Serv

45(52)

28.(14)

Natl Science Found

45(56)

29.(15)

Small Bus Admin

45(56)

30.(18)

White House

45(53)

31.(17)

Food Drug Admin

42(53)

32.(43)

Homeland Security

42(38)

33.(24)

Env Protect Agency

41(50)

34.(19)

Fed Trade Comm

41(52)

35.(32)

Cong Budget Office

40(44)

36.(42)

Natl Transp Safety

40(40)

37.(23)

Dept of Commerce

39(50)

38.(40)

Fed Deposit

39(40)

39.(39)

Dept of Justice

37(49)

40.(37)

Eq Employ Opp

37(41)

41.(59)

4th Circuit Ct Appeals

36(24)

42.(34)

Office Man Budget

36(44)

43.(46)

Senate

36(36)

44.(44)

Natl Labor Relations

35(38)

45.(36)

5th Circuit Ct Appeals

33(41)

46.(26)

Dept of Labor

33(49)

47.(29)

Fed Elect Comm

33(46)

48.(47)

Supreme Ct

33(36)

49.(48)

US Trade Rep

32(36)

50.(55)

9th Circuit Ct Appeals

30(29)

51.(41)

Natl Endow Human

30(40)

52.(51)

Fed Circuit Ct Appeals

26(33)

53.(49)

11th Circuit Ct Appeals

25(34)

54.(52)

3rd Circuit Ct Appeals

24(32)

55.(54)

1st Circuit Ct Appeals

21(29)

56.(57)

2nd Circuit Ct Appeals

20(25)

57.(56)

7th Circuit Ct Appeals

20(28)

58.(60)

8th Circuit Ct Appeals

20(24)

59.(50)

10th Circuit Ct Appeals

18(33)

60.(58)

6th Circuit Ct Appeals

17(25)

 

In the conclusion of their report, West and his research team suggest several means to improve e-government web sites. One area is the way in which departments field online questions and receive feedback. Sometimes, help features and email addresses are hidden in small font at the bottom of pages. This makes it more difficult to get help at the very time when websites are incorporating more complex applications on their sites.

 

Some sites include feedback and question forms instead of an email address. This is certainly an improvement, as it is usually easier to find and allows users with no email capabilities to send feedback to a technician. However, these people still cannot receive responses without an address of their own, and as a result webpage forms are only more useful than address links for sending unidirectional feedback to the site.

 

One solution to this problem is to incorporate a help forum into the site, which would allow questions and responses to be publicly posted rather than sent to a mailbox. Not only would this allow people with no email capabilities to be included in the help process, but it allows questions and responses to be viewed by all people, such that frequent user problems need not be constantly attended to. Agencies would benefit from following the example of those who have incorporated a live help feature to their portal website. Chatroom-style live dialogue with a technician is the most user-friendly way to address the questions and concerns of users.

 

Another area that can be improved by many states is ease of navigation. Most people will come to state portal sites in search of specific services. It can be assumed that many of these individuals are not aware of which department or agency is responsible for the service they are looking for. Portal sites should be organized by services and needs, not according to bureaucratic hierarchy. Most portal sites now have a consolidated list of online services offered by all departments. This is an important first step in the restructuring of state websites. Several states, including several of the top ranked, now include a link to this list in a toolbar that exists on nearly all of the departmental pages. This feature increases citizen usability by making it easy to access services from any point on the site.

 For more information about the results of this study, please contact Darrell West at (401) 863-1163 or see the full report at www.InsidePolitics.org. The Appendix of that report provides e-government profiles for each of the 50 states and the federal agencies.