United Nations Global E-government survey 2012

March 1, 2012

The United Nations Global E-government Survey 2012 is now available. This sixth UN E-government survey focuses on E-government for the People:

UN E-government Survey 2012

Executive summary:
Progress in online service delivery continues in most countries around the world. The United Nations E-Government Survey 2012 finds that many have put in place e-government initiatives and information and communication technologies applications for the people to further enhance public sector efficiencies and streamline governance systems to support sustainable development. Among the e-government leaders, innovative technology solutions have gained special recognition as the means to revitalize lagging economic and social sectors.

The overall conclusion that emerges from the 2012 Survey in today’s recessionary world climate is that while it is important to continue with service delivery, governments must increasingly begin to rethink in terms of e-government – and e-governance – placing greater emphasis on institutional linkages between and among the tiered government structures in a bid to create synergy for inclusive sustainable development. An important
aspect of this approach is to widen the scope of e-government for a transformative role of the government towards cohesive, coordinated, and integrated processes and institutions through which such sustainable development takes place.

Please see the official site for more details.


Towards Automated eGovernment Monitoring

September 26, 2011

Morten Goodwin’s Ph.D. thesis, with the title Towards Automated eGovernment Monitoring, is now available online.

Illustration photo of digital government

EGovernment solutions promise to deliver a number of benefits including increased citizen participation. To make sure that these services work as intended there is a need for better measurements. However, finding suitable approaches to distinguish the good eGovernment services from those which need improvement is difficult. To elucidate, many surveys measuring the availability and quality of eGovernment services are carried out today on local, national and international level.

Because the majority of the methodologies and corresponding tests rely on human judgment, eGovernment benchmarking is mostly carried out manually by expert testers. These tasks are error prone and time consuming, which in practice means that most eGovernment surveys either focus on a specific topic, small geographical area, or evaluate a small sample, such as few web pages per country. Due to the substantial resources needed, large scale surveys assessing government web sites are predominantly carried out by big organizations. Further, for most surveys neither the methodologies nor detailed result are publicly available, which prevents efficient use of the surveys results for practical improvements.

This thesis focuses on automatic and open approaches to measure government web sites.

The thesis uses the collaboratively developed eGovMon application as a basis for testing, and presents corresponding methods and reference implementations for deterministic accessibility testing based on the unified web evaluation methodology (UWEM). It addresses to what extent web sites are accessible for people with special needs and disabilities. This enables large scale web accessibility testing, on demand testing of single web sites and web pages, as well as testing for accessibility barriers of PDF documents.

Further, the thesis extends the accessibility testing framework by introducing classification algorithms to detect accessibility barriers. This method supplements and partly replaces tests that are typically carried out manually. Based on training data from municipality web sites, the reference implementation suggests whether alternative texts, which are intended to describe the image content to people who are unable to see the images, are in-accessible. The introduced classification algorithms reach an accuracy of 90%.

Most eGovernment surveys include whether governments have specific services and information available online. This thesis presents service location as an information retrieval problem which can be addressed by automatic algorithms. It solves the problem by an innovative colony inspired classification algorithm called the lost sheep. The lost sheep automatically locates services on web sites, and indicates whether it can be found by a real user. The algorithm is both substantially tested in synthetic environments, and shown to perform well with realistic tasks on locating services related to transparency. It outperforms all comparable algorithms both with increased accuracy and reduced number of downloaded pages.

The results from the automatic testing approaches part of this thesis could either be used directly, or for more in-depth accessibility analysis, the automatic approaches can be used to prioritize which web sites and tests should be part of a manual evaluation.

This thesis also analyses and compares results from automatic and manual accessibility evaluations. It shows that when the aim of the accessibility benchmarking is to produce a representative accessibility score of a web site, for example for comparing or ranking web sites, automatic testing is in most cases sufficient.

The thesis further presents results gathered by the reference implementations and correlates the result to social factors. The results indicate that web sites for national governments are much more accessible than regional and local government web sites in Norway. It further shows that countries with established accessibility laws and regulations, have much more accessible web sites. In contrast, countries who have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities do not reach the same increased accessibility. The results also indicate that even though countries with financial wealth have the most accessible web sites, it is possible to make web sites accessible for all also in countries with smaller financial resources.

Full disclosure: I am the author of the thesis.

Global Web Accessibility

April 7, 2011

Cover of Journal of Information Technology and Politics

A scientific publication titled Global Web Accessibility Analysis of National Government Portals and Ministry Web Sites (Morten Goodwin, Deniz Susar, Annika Nietzio, Mikael Snaprud, Christian S. Jensen) was recently published.

The publication presents web accessibility benchmarking methodology, and uses this methodology to present a survey on the accessibility of public web sites in the 192 United Nations Member States. It further identifies common properties of Member States that have accessible and inaccessible Web sites and shows that implementing antidisability discrimination laws is highly beneficial for the accessibility of Web sites, while signing the UN Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities has had no such effect yet. The article also demonstrates that, despite the commonly held assumption to the contrary, mature, high-quality Web sites are more accessible than lower quality ones. Moreover, Web accessibility conformance claims by Web site owners are generally exaggerated.

The countries with web sites that receive the best accessibility scores are:

  1. Germany
  2. Portugal
  3. Spain

The survey also shows that the economy of a country influences the accessibility of web sites, so that, not surprisingly, wealthy countries have more accessible web sites than poor countries. However, the study shows that accessibility laws have more impact than the financial status. Thus, it is not necessarily costly to make web sites accessible. It is however important to have well established accessibility laws which are actively followed up.

(Full disclosure: I am a co-author of the paper)
Morten Goodwin

Fix the web

March 8, 2011

An innovative crowd sourcing services for improving web accessibility has recently been launched called Fix the Web. The crowd sourcing approach works so that any person with a special need or a disability can report on barriers he or she encounters on public web sites. Fix the Web would then work as a pool of reported barriers.

Subsequently volunteers look at the reported problems and proposes solutions. When a solution is available, the data is communicated to the appropriate web site owner. The owners not only become aware of a barrier on their web sites but also receives a potential fix. This way, everyone benefits.

Their primary goal is to raise awareness of web accessibility. Their secondary goal is to get acknowledgement from a website owner and actual web site improvements. Lets hope people use this service and the crowd sourcing approach catches on, and both goals are reached making the a better place for everyone.

Morten Goodwin

Digitizing Public Services in Europe: Putting Ambition into Action

February 23, 2011

A report entitled Digitizing Public Services in Europe: Putting Ambition into Action was recently released by Capgemini for the European Commission. The report takes the pulse of eGovernment in Europe and is the ninth measurements of digital services of its kind.

The main focuses in the report includes how well digital services meet the the European i2010 action plan; How well the available eGovernment services are efficient, are able to include easy access to online services for all citizens, implement high impact services and strengthen participation and democracy.

The presented data shows that Ireland, Malta, Austria and Portugal rank best of the European countries on online sophistication.

Current and future challenges

Even though the report recognizes that the basic 20 services are available for almost all evaluated countries, it shows that the online sophistication levels significantly differs between national regional levels. Not surprisingly, the online national services score better than regional services, and online services in cities score better than in non-urban areas. A conclusion to be drawn from this is that even though eGovernment are mature on a national level in Europe, much work is left on regional levels.

Further challenges include take-up and impact. Even though services exists only 42% of individuals aged 16 to 74 use the Internet for interaction with public authorities. Another challenge is efficient trans-European interoperability.

Morten Goodwin

I paid a bribe

January 13, 2011

An innovative online service has recently been launched called I paid a bride.

In this service you can report if you:

  • Unwillingly paid a bribe,
  • Got a demand for a bribe but resisted or
  • Discovered improvements when it comes to corruption.

The aim is to use the collected data to learn the nature and patterns of bribes as a step towards fighting the corruption.

(Source: Sabina Panth blog post in blogs.worldbank.org)

Universal Design: Is it Accessible?

January 10, 2011

Universal Design: Is it Accessible?” is an interesting and controversial paper published in by Jane Bringolf in The RIT Journal of Plurality and Diversity in Design.

In the paper Bringolf argues that universal design sometimes fails to meet its own principal. For example, despite being far from universal, concepts such as accessibility and disability are often used to describe universal design. Bringolf further argues that this is partly why universal design is understood as a disability product rather than something made for all users.

The author claims that in a legislation with focus on people with disabilities, the benefits for all are lost. Instead the focus for designers and developers is to meet the regulations. This requires designers and developers to think in specially designed for disabled people when developing new products, which is exactly what universal design is trying to prevent.

The author controversially claims that neither legislation nor further research is the solution to a more universal designed world. To avoid people with disabilities becoming just another legal problem for designers, the author wants to re-brand universal design.