Reading Report – Digital Government #3

Book Name:
Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance

By: Darrell M. West

Reported by: Aldwin Urbina (M1)

Chapter 3 / The Content of American Government Websites


This chapter imparts the content of government websites that were studied by the author to account some of the changes and progress being made in electronic governance.

Making public services available online is a top priority of government agencies. This is because citizens want the same convenience they get from ordering personal items online at commercial sites when transacting with government offices. Placing services online can benefit both the government and the citizens since such services has the potential to lower the costs of service delivery and to make the services more widely accessible to the public who no longer need to visit the physical locations of government offices to execute a service. Thus, it is presumed that e-government will revolutionize the relationship and interaction between government and its constituents. However, there is little empirical evidence that government websites are actually offering online services that are adherent to their mandates.

In 2003, common government services that were available online include ordering a copy of birth or death certificates; filing consumer complaints; filing business and payroll taxes; new hire reports; updating professional licenses; filing Uniform Commercial Code reports; purchasing hunting, fishing, or sporting licenses; renewing motorboat/snowmobile/all-terrain vehicle registrations; renewing drivers’ licenses; paying speeding tickets; renewing car registrations; ordering duplicate drivers’ licenses; ordering special plates; purchasing transport passes; ordering duplicate registration for motor vehicles; and registering to vote.

Some states offer a number of innovative services, among others, having a “live” help feature in which citizens can get instant help from a public employee if they encounter a problem at the website; including foreign language options; offering documents in several foreign languages; offering online webcam to waiting rooms so people can see in real time how crowded lines are.

As can be seen in Table 3-1, there is a moderate pace of expansion of e-government services. This is brought about by several obstacles that limit dramatic change through technology. Aside from the organizational and political factors that constrain technological change in the public sector mentioned in Chapter 2, there are security and trust issues involved in utilizing e-government services.

Table 3-1. Percentage of State and Federal Websites Offering Online Services, 2000-2003.

2000 2001 2002 2003
No Service 78% 75% 77% 56%
One Service 16% 15% 12% 15%
Two Services 3% 4% 4% 8%
Three or More Services 2% 6% 7% 21%

The unregulated atmosphere of the Internet has urged people to question privacy and security of government websites. This prompted the United States government to provide privacy and security statements in their websites. The increase in the number of websites with privacy and security policies is not only due to the concerns of citizens but also the effect of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Reporter’s Own Thoughts

There are so many different aspects of e-government that the success of its adoption and implementation is very difficult to assess. Thus, the various methods and standards for measuring the progress of e-government have to be continuously improved and updated to comprehensively and accurately account developments in this domain. However, the goal of governments should be directed and emphasized on how to efficiently deliver its services to its constituents rather than aiming to modernized governance through electronic means.