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Distributed September 20, 2004
Contact Mark Nickel

Fifth Annual State and Federal E-Government Study
Tennessee, Maine Lead States; Social Security Leads Federal Agencies

A study of digital government in the 50 states and major federal agencies ranks Tennessee and Maine first and second among the states and FirstGov (the U.S. portal) and the Social Security Administration first and second among federal sites. The rankings are based on data gathered by researchers at Brown University during summer 2004. Tables for states and federal agencies appear below.

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 (an average of 31.4 sites per state) and 60 federal sites. Research was completed during June, July and August 2004. Previous e-government studies were released in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.

Web sites are examined for the presence of various electronic features, including online publications, online databases, audio clips, video clips, foreign language or language translation, advertisements, premium fees, user payments or fees, disability access, privacy policy, security policy, online services, digital signatures, credit card payments, e-mail addresses, comment forms, automatic e-mail updates, Web site personalization, PDA accessibility, quality control and readability level.

Results of the survey show that states and agencies have made progress on several fronts. In terms of online services, 56 percent of state and federal sites now have services that are fully executable online, up from 44 percent last year. In addition, more sites now 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.

Little progress has been made in providing disability access, however. Using automated Bobby software from Watchfire Inc., researchers found that 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.

Researchers found a number of quality control issues on public sites. To measure these quality problems, they used WebXM, Watchfire's enterprise platform, to analyze each of the 50 state government portals. The WebXM platform scans enterprise Web sites 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 many pages with content, search or 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 five states with the greatest improvement over 2003 include Maine (up 23 places to second), Arkansas (up 21 to 16th), Delaware (up 15 to ninth), Oregon (up 15 to 19th), and Utah (up 14 to third). States that lost the most ground include South Dakota (down 13 places to 27th), Maryland, down 14 to 32nd), Nevada (down 47 to 32nd), Michigan (down 16 to 22nd), and Missouri (down 26 to 38th).

Fifth Annual State e-Government Rankings
(Previous year’s rank and score are in parentheses)

   RankStateScore         RankStateScore

1 (4)Tennessee56.5(41.4)26 (23)New Hampshire36.0(37.6)
2 (25)Maine55.2 (37.4)27 (39)Colorado35.5(33.1)
3 (17)Utah54.6 (38.1)27 (14)South Dakota35.5(39.5)
4 (8)New York53.6 (40.5)29 (33)Rhode Island35.4(35.3)
5 (11)Illinois51.0 (39.7)30 (29)North Dakota35.3(36.4)
5 (1)Massachusetts51.0(46.3)31 (20)North Carolina34.8(38.0)
7 (3)Indiana46.0 (42.4)32 (18)Maryland34.4(38.1)
8 (4)Texas44.5 (43.0)33 (43)Montana34.1 (32.7)
9 (24)Delaware44.2 (37.4)34 (27)Minnesota34.0(36.8)
10 (13)New Jersey41.3(39.6)35 (32)Nevada33.7 (35.7)
11 (5)California41.2(41.1)35 (30)Idaho33.7 (35.9)
12 (22)Connecticut40.3(37.9)37 (35)Iowa33.3 (34.6)
13 (9)Florida39.9 (40.3)38 (12)Missouri33.0(39.7)
13 (21)Kansas39.9 (38.0)39 (50)Alaska32.8 (30.3)
15 (7)Pennsylvania39.3(40.5)40 (45)Hawaii32.3 (32.1)
16 (37)Arkansas39.2(34.0)41 (44)Vermont31.3 (32.3)
17 (10)Kentucky39.0(40.0)42 (42)South Carolina30.6(32.7)
18 (15)Arizona38.8 (39.1)43 (36)Wisconsin30.0(34.2)
19 (34)Oregon38.6 (34.9)44 (46)Alabama29.9 (31.9)
20 (26)Ohio38.5 (37.4)45 (38)Oklahoma29.8(33.2)
21 (28)Louisiana38.2(36.6)45 (49)New Mexico28.8(30.3)
22 (6)Michigan38.0 (40.6)47 (48)Nebraska28.5 (31.3)
23 (16)Washington37.8(38.6)48 (40)Wyoming28.4 (33.0)
24 (19)Virginia37.7(38.1)49 (47)Mississippi26.8(31.5)
25 (31)Georgia36.9 (35.8)50 (41)West Virginia26.0(32.7)

Top-rated federal Web sites 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.

Fifth Annual Federal Agency e-Government Rankings
(Previous year’s rank and score are in parentheses)

   RankAgencyScore         RankAgencyScore

1 (1)FirstGov portal88 (84)31 (17)Food Drug Administration42 (53)
2 (3)Social Security Admin65 (69)31 (43)Homeland Security42 (38)
3 (21)Dept of Education61 (51)33 (24)Environ Protect Agency41 (50)
4 (2)Federal Comm Com60 (73)33 (19)Federal Trade Comm41 (52)
5 (11)Dept of Agriculture56 (56)35 (32)Congress Budget Office40 (44)
5 (4)Internal Revenue Service56 (68)35 (42)Natl Transport Safety40 (40)
7 (31)Federal Reserve54 (45)37 (23)Dept of Commerce39 (50)
7 (13)General Services Admin54 (56)37 (40)Fed Deposit Insur Corp39 (40)
7 (6)Postal Service54 (68)39 (39)Department of Justice37 (49)
10 (35)House of Representatives.53 (42)39 (37)Equal Employ Opp Comm37 (41)
11 (12)Dept of Defense52 (56)41 (59)4th Circuit Ct Appeals36 (24)
11 (9)Housing/Urban Devel52 (62)41 (34)Office Managmt Budget36 (44)
11 (33)NASA52 (44)41 (46)U.S. Senate36 (36)
14 (22)Dept of Transportation51 (51)44 (44)National Labor Relations35 (38)
15 (7)Dept of Treasury50 (64)45 (36)5th Circuit Ct Appeals33 (41)
15 (45)Dept of Interior50 (36)45 (26)Department of Labor33 (49)
17 (25)Dept of Energy49 (49)45 (29)Federal Election Comm33 (46)
17 (38)Government Printing Ofc49 (41)45 (47)Supreme Court33 (36)
19 (5)Library of Congress49 (68)49 (48)US Trade Representative32 (36)
20 (27)General Accounting Office48 (47)50 (55)9th Circuit Ct Appeals30 (29)
21 (53)Natl Endowment Arts46 (32)50 (41)Natl Endow Humanities30 (40)
21 (8)Sec/Exchange Comm46 (64)52 (51)Fed Circuit Ct Appeals26 (33)
21 (28)Veterans Affairs46 (47)53 (49)11th Circuit Ct Appeals25 (34)
24 (30)Central Intelligence Ag45 (45)54 (52)3rd Circuit Ct Appeals24 (32)
24 (10)Consumer Product Safety45 (57)55 (54)1st Circuit Ct Appeals21 (29)
24 (16)Department of State45 (54)56 (57)2nd Circuit Ct Appeals20 (25)
24 (20)Health/Human Services45 (52)56 (56)7th Circuit Ct Appeals20 (28)
24 (14)Natl Science Foundation45 (56)56 (60)8th Circuit Ct Appeals20 (24)
24 (15)Small Business Admin45 (56)59 (50)10th Circuit Ct Appeals18 (33)
24 (18)White House45 (53)60 (58)6th Circuit Ct Appeals17 (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 e-mail addresses are hidden in a small font at the bottom of pages. This makes it more difficult to get help at the very time when Web sites are incorporating more complex applications on their sites.

Some sites include feedback and question forms instead of an e-mail address. This is certainly an improvement, as it is usually easier to find and allows users with no e-mail capabilities to send feedback to a technician. However, these people still cannot receive responses without an address of their own, and as a result Web 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 e-mail capabilities to be included in the help process, but it allows questions and responses to be viewed by all people, so that solutions to frequent user problems are immediately available. Agencies would benefit from following the example of those who have incorporated a live help feature to their portal Web site. 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 restructuring state Web sites. Several states, including several ranked near the top, 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, contact Darrell West at (401) 863-1163 or see the full report at The appendix of that report provides e-government profiles for each of the 50 states and the federal agencies.


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