RealTime IT News

If Only eGov Sites Could Do More...

Citizen satisfaction with e-government sites isn't that great, and not so bad -- just stagnating, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index's (ACSI).

Produced by the University of Michigan, the latest Index shows aggregate satisfaction with the 87 federal Web sites measured nudged up by improved three tenths of a percent from the third quarter of this year to 73.9 on the ACSI's 100-point scale.

After three consecutive years of sustained increases, the report shows aggregate e-government satisfaction score over the last year has varied by just a half point.

"The most crucial factor in whether e-government will achieve its promise is whether citizens feel it meets their needs and expectations -- if not, they'll stick with more expensive and less convenient ways of dealing with the government," Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and the author of the ACSI E-Government report, said in a statement released with the report.

E-government is also part of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) quarterly report on how well federal agencies are meeting the President's Management Agenda, but the OMD does not measure user satisfaction.

"As a former CTO, I can tell you that standards, compliance and security are all good things, but a scorecard based only on these components is missing the citizens' perception of the web experience," Freed said.

Increasing citizen satisfaction with e-government is further challenged by users' experiences in the private sector on sites like Amazon. As e-commerce sites continue to improve service levels with a focus on customers, e-government sites will also be pressured to improve services.

"Amid budgetary constraints, it can be particularly difficult for e-government to keep pace with the deep pockets of the private sector in terms of innovation and improvement," the report states.

Nevertheless, government websites remained within striking distance of their private sector counterparts also measured by the ACSI. Government portals and department main sites scored 74.9 a 0.1 per cent increase from last quarter, but 1 percent higher year-over-year. Private sector portals scored a 76.

In the News and Information sites category, e-government sites scored 72.9, up 0.3 per cent from the third quarter and 0.5 percent year-over-year. Private sector portals in the same category scored a 73.

E-commerce and transactional sites are another matter. While the private sector scored an 80, e-government sites came in at 74.5, down 1 per cent from last year.

"While e-government sites have narrowed the gap between private sector sites in the Portals and News/Information categories, the public sector continues to lag significantly behind in E-Commerce/Transactions," the report states. "This is important as many government sites are striving to migrate more business functions to the web, including distribution of forms, registration for services and e-mail inquiries, among others."

Freed said the government should renew its commitment to e-government sites as federal financial resources decline.

"Government agencies that listen and respond to citizen feedback have saved millions of dollars in deflected calls and email inquiries by improving their websites' ability to meet citizen needs," he said. "It is in the interests of both the tax payer and government to improve the quality, access and cost-effectiveness of government services by improving satisfaction with government Web sites."