Brown University E-Government Ratings

The newly released Urban E-Government, 2003 report from Brown University's Center for Public Policy ranks Salt Lake City 7th in the nation in their analysis of 1,933 city government websites. Salt Lake City ranked 37th in 2002.

Salt Lake City sites received high marks for their low reading level grade (1st place), the high percentage of services executable online, availability of publications and data on all sites, support of secure credit card transactions for most services, and links to security and privacy policies from nearly all pages.

Brown University's State and Federal E-Government study of 1,603 state government websites reports that the State of Utah, as a whole, fell to 17th after placing 10th last year.

Utah ranked highly in providing links to its security and privacy policies. The reviewers found that 97% of agency sites provided publications and 74% provided information in databases. The State ranked poorly, however, in reading level (grade 11.7 or 50th place), accessibility compliance (47th with only 14% of state sites in compliance), and online services (0.7 per website or 46th). The ranking difference between Utah and front-running Massachusetts is primarily because the Commonwealth provides links to their 48 online services in their state header. This is an easy fix that might take Utah Interactive all of about five minutes to put in place (hint, hint).

In terms of federal agencies, top-rated websites include FirstGov (the U.S. portal), Federal Communications Commission, Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Library of Congress, Postal Service, Dept. of Treasury, and Securities and Exchange Commission. The lowest-rated sites are the various federal circuit courts of appeals. The new Homeland Security Department scores in the lower third of federal agencies.

The evaluation paid more attention this year to online services, the handling of privacy and security, and offering disability access.

After reviewing the Center for Public Policy's evaluations, here are some simple suggestions that webmasters can follow to get our state and cities ranked higher next year:

  1. Use the Flesch-Kincaid tests that come with Word and WordPerfect to keep documents to an 8-9th grade reading level
  2. Test your pages periodically with Bobby for W3C and Section 508 accessibility compliance
  3. Provide robust Privacy AND security policies (including policy on sharing personal information), and prominently link them from every page
  4. Continually evaluate and improve performances
  5. Identify your online services, list them (quantity does matter), categorize them, and make them easy to navigate to from the banner headers; for bonus points, include a few novel services
  6. Identify all the forms you have and make sure that all or most can be submitted online
  7. Support SSL and allow citizens to do financial transactions with credit cards (currently 71% for state agencies), and digital signatures (now 0%)
  8. Identify and provide easy access to publications and databases
  9. Provide foreign language features such as "En Espanol" links for all your key services and publications
  10. Lower the gross number and percentages of services that restrict access such as requiring user fees and passwords (Utah is currently in 42nd place with 29% of sites having restrictions)
  11. Go beyond email links (we rank high with 89%) with easy to use comment boxes and alert services to facilitate contact access and public feedback from every page; currently 11% of state sites over comment facilities, 17% offer updating; and 0% offer personalization
  12. Eliminate commercial advertising if you have any
  13. By all means, be sure you have standardized headers, site map, and a site search


    In the "if you can't be 'em, learn from 'em" department, take a look at FirstGov and these five top-ranked cities:

    • Denver recognized for its clear layout and organization with easy navigation to all citizen services;
    • Charlotte with a plethora of fully executable services, a database that allows a user to access property information and demographic information for any address, a noteworthy security policy, and a comments box on every page that sends form data direct to the page author;
    • Boston noted for its uncluttered and aesthetic appearance, information organized into sections for residents, businesses and visitors, and site personalization and email updates;
    • Louisville cited for its easy navigation and compliance to Section 508 and W3C accessibility standards, Secure Sockets Layer protocol to safeguard personal information, and easy to use dropdown menu to city services; and
    • Nashville recognized for its content rich abundance of publications and databases.

    See also: State E-government press release | Urban E-government press release | PDF version of the full State E-Government report | PDF version of the full Urban E-Government report | Govering.com state report | Governing.com city report | Brown Policy Reports archives, 2001-03 | Government Computer News (GCN)

    Posted by Ray_Matthews on September 25, 2003 at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | Send this story to a friend!
    Comments

    Great write up Ray! I especially like the idea of having a dropdown of online services in the header. I think the site needs to be more web standards-compliant and completely accessible. The Javascript stuff can be replaced with more accessible and cleaner markup.

    Thanks again

    Posted by: Gilbert Lee at January 6, 2004 01:47 PM

    Great write up Ray! I especially like the idea of having a dropdown of online services in the header. I think the site needs to be more web standards-compliant and completely accessible. The Javascript stuff can be replaced with more accessible and cleaner markup.

    Thanks again

    Posted by: Gilbert Lee at January 6, 2004 01:50 PM