Distributed September 17, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Taubman Center for Public Policy

Study finds urban ‘e-government’ sites need to put more services online

An analysis of Web sites maintained by the 70 largest U.S. cities indicates that urban governments need to invest more time and effort in “e-government.” The study by researchers at Brown University placed San Diego, Albuquerque, Seattle, Washington, Salt Lake City, Virginia Beach and Kansas City among the leaders, but only one city scored higher than 50 on the 100-point scale researchers used for evaluations.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A major study of urban “e-government” has found that Web sites maintained by city government agencies in America’s 70 largest cities need to devote more effort to providing citizens with effective access to online information and services.

Researchers at Brown University’s Taubman Center for Public Policy searched 1,506 sites for 28 separate features and evaluated those sites on a 100-point scale. The scale measured the availability of information and services, the quality of citizen access, and the amount of material that would help citizens hold leaders accountable, according to Darrell M. West, director of the Taubman Center. An average of 21.5 sites per city were examined for each of the 70 largest metropolitan areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Financial support for the project was provided by Brown University. The analysis was undertaken during the summer.

Among the survey results for urban government Web sites:

  • Sixty-four percent provide access to publications;
  • Fourteen percent show privacy policies;
  • Thirteen percent offer services that are fully executable online;
  • Eleven percent have some type of access for persons with disabilities;
  • Seven percent are multilingual, offering material in two or more languages;
  • Eight percent have a visible security policy;
  • Less than 1 percent of sites include commercial advertising.

The city services most likely to be online were a facility for motorists to pay parking tickets (30 sites) and for citizens to file complaints about street lights, rodent control and potholes (27 sites). Cities that included foreign language accommodations on most of their sites included Dallas, Hartford, and Orlando. Police departments were among the sites most likely to offer bilingual services.

Ranking the Cities

1.San Diego52.936.Houston33.1
3.Seattle48.438.Fort Worth31.9
4.Washington, D.C.45.439.Tucson31.7
5.Salt Lake City44.240.Syracuse31.5
6.Virginia Beach43.140.Jacksonville31.5
7.Kansas City, Mo.42.742.Omaha31.0
9.San Jose42.044.Cincinnati30.3
10.Indianapolis41.944.New Orleans30.3
13.Los Angeles40.147.Norfolk30.1
16.New York39.552.Milwaukee29.5
20.San Francisco38.255.Phoenix28.3
22.Baltimore37.357.San Antonio28.0
23.Pittsburgh37.157.West Palm Beach28.0
24.Providence36.959.Grand Rapids27.9
27.Columbus35.762.St. Louis26.4
28.Las Vegas35.563.Birmingham26.1
30.Long Beach35.065.El Paso25.0
31.Oklahoma City34.266.Miami, Fla.24.8
35.Portland, Ore.33.470.Albany17.2

The poor ranking of some city government Web sites reflects the lack of services available on the sites and the failure of some sites to provide meaningful assistance to citizens. While many sites contain phone and address contact information, e-mail, external links and publications, many do not offer such important features as services, disability access, foreign language translation and search capabilities. Other than providing e-mail contacts, many cities have been slow to adopt interactive features of the Internet.

In their conclusion, West and his research team suggested several means to improve e-government Web sites. Among their recommendations:

  • Make more extensive use of interactive technologies that would help citizens hold leaders accountable;
  • Publish Web sites in languages other than English, especially in areas with large non-English speaking populations;
  • Create “one-stop” service portals for cities lacking such features;
  • Empower citizens by providing Web site search engines and areas to post citizen comments.

For more information about the results of this study, please contact Darrell West at (401) 863-1163 or check out the full report at www.InsidePolitics.org. The appendix of that report provides e-government profiles for each of the 70 cities.

West and his colleagues recently released a similar report evaluating the Web sites of state and federal government agencies. That report is also available on the Web.