Distributed October 18, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

International e-government

Global survey shows U.S.A. takes the lead in online government

The United States was one of only three nations to score higher than 50 percent in a new study of Internet use by governments worldwide. The survey of 196 nations was conducted for the World Markets Research Center of London by the Taubman Centre for Public Policy at Brown University.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Governments worldwide, including the United States, are not using the full technological potential of the Internet, according to a new survey published today by The World Markets Research Centre, a London-based research institute.

The United States was one of only three out of 196 nations audited that scored more than 50 points on a 100-point scale used in the survey, which was conducted for WMRC by Darrell M. West, professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Researchers at the University graded each country’s online presence against 28 criteria including availability of contact information, publications, databases, portals and the number of online services.

Widely regarded as the global leader in technology and the Internet, the United States scored only 57.2 points, the highest-ranking nation. Taiwan and Australia ranked second and third with 52.5 and 50.7 respectively, with Canada and the United Kingdom in fourth and fifth positions.

Researchers analyzed 2,288 national government Web sites from 196 nations. Among the sites analyzed were executive offices, legislative offices, judicial offices, cabinet and ministerial offices, and major agencies serving such crucial government functions as health, taxation, education, economic development, foreign affairs, foreign investment, tourism and business regulation.

The Internet is viewed as an opportunity for governments to provide government services and information more efficiently and more cost effectively to their citizens. However, the survey found that worldwide “e-government” is falling short of its true potential:

  • Only 8 percent offered services that were fully executable online;

  • Only 2 percent of government Web sites have some form of disability access;

  • Only 6 percent reassure users with visible privacy policies;

  • Only 3 percent have a public security policy;

  • Only 6 percent of Web sites have links to a government portal;

  • Only 33 percent of government Web sites are searchable, which limits the ability of ordinary citizens to find relevant information quickly.

According to WMRC, security is the main issue stifling the growth of e-government. A considerable boost in encryption and security technology is required before governments will be able to make full use of the technological power of the Internet to improve the lives of citizens and enhance the performance of governmental units.

Once this level of security is achieved, e-government could revolutionize the relationship between government and citizens, from simply offering live broadcasts of important speeches or events to more complex issues such as online tax payment and online voting.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Gino Ussi, chief executive officer of WMRC, said, We must remember that e-government is still very much in its infancy. The survey highlights areas that need attention like privacy and security, disability access and technology questions such as the use of search engines and portals to simplify navigation. E-government offers vast potential to improve interactivity between governments and their citizens, but it is clear from this survey that governments are still some way off maximizing the full potential of the Internet.”

West, director of the Taubman Center, also focused on security and privacy. “Once security and privacy standards are agreed, there are a number of priorities governments should focus on to enhance the experience of the average citizen,” West said. “Online transactions and voting are two high-profile targets. During the March 2000 Democratic presidential primary elections in Arizona, online voting was offered for the first time and resulted in a 600-percent increase in overall voter participation.”

The full Government Online Survey is available free from WMRC at www.wmrc.com. The report includes rankings of the 196 national governments around the world as well as profiles on individual nations. For additional information, contact Darrell M. West of Brown University at (401) 863-1163 ([email protected]) or contact Michelle Wilkinson-Rowe of WMRC at 44 (0) 20 7452 5183.