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  America
U.S. Falling Behind South Korea and Taiwan
New Global E-Government Report Shows
By Darrell West
Brookings Institution Vice President
Across the world, 50 percent of government websites offer services.

Few developments have had broader consequences for the public sector than the introduction of the Internet and digital technology. Electronic government offers the promise of utilizing technology to improve public sector performance as well as employing new advances for democracy itself. In its boldest formulation, technology is seen as a tool for long-term system transformation. Despite the great promise of technological advancement, though, public sector innovation has tended to be small-scale and gradual. The United States has fallen behind many countries in Internet access and broadband usage. According to the 2007 Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, America lags Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany in Internet subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Whereas 36 percent of Swiss residents have access to Internet subscription services, 31 percent of Americans have access to the Internet. More worrisome is broadband access. Here, the U.S. ranks 15th among OECD nations, down from fourth place in 2001. Thirty-five percent of Danes have access to high-speed broadband, compared to only 22 percent of Americans. This limits the ability of Americans to take full advantage of the Internet and media-rich applications. To maintain its technology edge in the 21st century, the United States must invest more in research and development.

In general, e-government is not radically transforming the public sector. While some countries have embraced digital government broadly defined, the United States is falling behind in broadband access, public sector innovation and in implementing the latest interactive tools to government websites. This limits the transformational potential of the Internet and weakens the ability of technology to empower citizens and businesses. Government websites must make better use of available technology, and address problems of access and democratic outreach. This report reviews the current condition of electronic government and makes practical suggestions for improving the delivery of information and services over the Internet. .Using a detailed analysis of 1,667 national government websites in 198 nations around the world undertaken in Summer 2008, this report studies the types of features available online, the variation that exists across countries, and how current e-government trends compare to previous years from 2001 to 2008.

Among its significant findings are that countries vary enormously in their overall e-government performance. In technology utilization, the United States has fallen behind countries such as South Korea and Taiwan. The most highly ranked e-government nations in our study are South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Singapore, Canada, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Dominica, Brazil and Malaysia. At the other end of the spectrum, countries such as Tuvalu, Mauritania, Guinea, Congo, Comoros, Macedonia, Kiribati, Samoa and Tanzania barely have a web presence.

Across the world, 50 percent of government websites offer services that are fully executable online, up from 28 percent last year. Ninety-six percent of websites this year provide access to publications and 75 percent have links to databases. More problematic is that only 30 percent show privacy policies and 17 percent have security policies. Only 16 percent of government websites have some form of access for disabled persons, while 57 provide foreign language translation to non-native readers. Fourteen percent offer the ability to personalize government websites to a visitor's area of interest, while three percent provide PDA accessibility. The remainder of this report reviews these findings in greater detail and closes by making recommendations for more effective use of digital technology.

More details on global e-government can be found at www.brookings.edu/reports/2008/0817_egovernment_west.aspx

Darrell West
Vice President and Director of Governance Studies
Brookings Institution / 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036 / 202-797-6481
The Governance Studies Newsletter features our latest analysis and events. To subscribe, please email: gsnewsletter@brookings.edu




 

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