Government At a Glance

October 28, 2009

A new and very interesting survey from OECD has recently been launched called Government at a Glance. This survey focuses on public administration and is intended to be a bi-annual survey of the OECD members.

The survey is categorized into indicators. Each indicator is composed of results from multiple questions. These are individually weighted discretized into a single score per grouping of indicator. The indicators are grouped as following:

  • Delegation: Composed of among others checking if there is a agency for human resources on national level.
  • Recruiting system: Composed of among others how a person becomes a public servant (direct application or competitive examination).
  • Performance-related pay: Composed of among others who gets performance related pay.
  • Performance assessment: Composed of among others how important performance assessment is related to career advancement.
  • Mid-term perspective: This is divided into; Estimates such as how often are multi-year estimated updated and Targets/Ceilings such as how many years does a target cover.
  • Performance Budget: Composed of among others if the ministries are required to report on performance against targets.
  • Executive flexibility: Composed of among others if the ministries have the authority to cancel spending once the budget has been approved.
  • Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA)-process: Composed of among others if RIA carried out before new regulations are adopted.
  • Programmes for reduction of administrative burdens: Composed of among others if there is an explicit programme to reduce the administrative burdens.

The survey also includes how core values within government has changed from 2000 to 2009, shown in the following figure:

Overview of what governments identified as core values in 2000 and 2009.

Some of the other key findings includes that governments are increasingly using private and non-profit entities to provide goods and services. Furthermore, that only between 10% and 60% of the population use eGovernment services.

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Online Tools for Analyzing your Web Site

October 19, 2009

It is unfortunately not possible to get a complete overview of how well a web site is working for the users by only using automatic analysis tools. However, there exists many tools which give valuable indications.

Web Accessibility

It should be clearly noted that in order to make a web site successfully working for all users, including users with disabilities, automatic accessibility measurements is not sufficient. In fact, only 20% of the tests defined in the Unified Web Evaluation Methodology can be measured automatically. However, many tools of automatic accessibility evaluation exists. Following are some of these;

  • The eAccessibility Checker detects web accessibility barriers using tests from the Unified Web Evaluation Methodology.
  • Walidator is another online tool based on the Unified Web Evaluation Methodology. In addition to automatic evaluation, the Walidator also assists in manual evaluation.
  • WAVE is interesting tool for web accessibility analysis which, in contrast to most other tools, does not a report or list of all the detected barriers. It presented the evaluated web page visually as well as clearly marking the detected barriers.
  • TAW is a tool which, in addition to WCAG1.0 and WCAG2.0 could present accessibility according to the W3C mobileOK Basic Tests.

Code Validation

(x)HTML and CSS are the most used technologies on web pages. There are many reasons to have valid (x)HTML and CSS. To mention a few; valid code is important to make sure the web pages are rendered similarly in different browsers, to help faster loading in web browsers and to reduce maintenance. The World Wide Web consortium (W3C) has also gathered opinions from the web community validation of web pages.

I would be surprised if many disagree with me when I say that hard to take a professional web site seriously if there has not even valid HTML. Thankfully, making sure web pages are implemented with valid (x)HTML and CSS is both easy and fool proof.

  • The classic and de facto standard of (x)HTML validation is the W3C Markup Valid Service.
  • Similarly, the de facto standard for CSS validation is the W3C Jigsaw.
  • Additionally, the CSE HTML Validator Lite does similar work as the W3C Markup Validator, but it has a little more detailed interface.

Broken Links

Another issue which can easily be checked automatically is detecting links which are no longer working (broken links). When you create a web site you typically link to the relevant resources – both internal and external. As the web site grows, chances are that the number of links to external resources also grows. Naturally, it would be a tedious process to manually verify that your links are still working, which is why we have automatic tools for doing exactly this:

  • One such tool is the SiteReportCard. In addition to broken links, it also checks for spelling errors, search engine hits and more. This is definitely worth a try.
  • Another similar tool to check for broken links, HTML syntax, etc. is Dr Watson.

Performance

Web Site performance can also be carried out automatically.

  • Websiteoptimization.com has a web page speed test.  This tool provides information on the web page size and download duration with various connection rates. In addition, it provides suggestions on improve the performance of the evaluated web site such as adding HTTP compression, reducing the size of scripts etc.
  • Load Impact is a more  thorough performance analysis tool. Among the useful features, it sends multiple requests to the evaluated web site in order to get an overview of how many simultaneous requests (users) the web site can handle.

Open Source in French eGovernment

October 8, 2009

Recently, a very interesting survey on open source in the French government has been presented. Following is a short summary of this survey, which I thought could be a nice follow up on my recent blog post on open source in eGovernment.

This French survey shows that 96% of the French public sector use open source.

According to the report, 77% use open source for the maturity of the software, which is the most common reason. This is of course not a property of open source itself but a consequence of well carried out open source development in these projects.

Furthermore, very much related to government transparency, 67% say they use open source software to be independent from their vendor. 48% say they use open source for interoperability, while 43% say they use it because of public policies.


Open Source in eGovernment

October 4, 2009

I have recently had the fortunate opportunity to listen to several talks from the open source evangelist Bruce Perens. This inspired me to do a short survey on the use of open source in eGovernment.

There is no question that open data and open source are key elements to ensure transparency in government. Any scientific survey on these topics will tell you this, such as: Government Transparency via Open Data and Open Source, Open Source Government Transparency Projects, etc. Furthermore, not surprisingly, the European Commission reported that open source software as well as the use of open standards are necessary for successful interoperability.

Despite of this, a recent paper by Robert Deller and Veronique Guillox,

Determining relevance of “best practice” based on interoperability in European eGovernment initiatives, identified that open source and open systems are unfortunately significantly under utilized when efficiency is measured in government services. In fact, Deller and Guillox’ data indicates that open source is the most under-represented characteristic when benchmarking interoperable systems. The study shows that only 6% of the best practice initiatives from the ePractice portal had explicit requirements for an open systems. Similarly, as much as 84% of the initiatives had absolutely no indication that open source were part of the initiative.

In contrast, an excellent project which won the ePractice good practice label 2007 is PloneGov. The project is still innovating and is again a finalist for the good practice label in 2009 (and has won several other impressive awards). The project has realized that government agencies world wide often have similar requirements and face similar challenges. Thus, PloneGov attempts to unite efforts and focus on creating portals for local governments and cities. There is no question that they do this very well; the PloneGov reference list is impressive and speaks for itself.

Joomla is another open source portal which has been used for local governments web sites. We are for example starting to see this used by several Norwegian municipality web sites. I work with Norwegian municipalities myself and have often been surprised that we have not seen more open source projects such as Joomla used for the web sites. Norway has 430 municipalities, most of which have very similar requirements, this is specially true for their web sites. This should be the ideal situation for use of open source software. It will be interesting to see how Joomla will compete with the well established proprietary vendors in the Norwegian marked.

Another eGovernment tool based on open source and open standards recognized by ePractice is openFWPA. Even though it is currently only deployed used in Asturia, Spain, it is a large application which has the potential to make collaboration between public entities more transparent and much easier – both in Spain and globally. This project has a huge potential and it will be exiting to see if other government agencies will start to utilize this in the future.

Let us hope that we see many more excellent open source government projects in the future as well as more transparent eGovernment.

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