This weekly feature surveys top government IT-related news -- involving all levels of government, from the federal to state and local, and international news. It is designed to give readers a primer on current trends and developments affecting the industry's major and interesting players, surveying news headlines from around the world. Washingtonpost.com's Cynthia L. Webb pens the feature. E-mail Cindy Webb Cindy Webb's Daily Filter Column
The No. 1 conclusion: "eGovernment advances are diminishing. The pace of progress of a number of early leaders has now slowed to the point where many other countries have caught up." Accenture officials told GovExec.com that the trend can only be reversed if "Cabinet-level officials ... provide strong and uniform leadership to ensure improvement in federal e-government amenities."
The Wall Street Journal summed up the report's findings: "Forty-eight percent of Americans using the Internet and 41% of Canadians have rarely or never visited a government Web site. ... Canada ranked first in the survey of Internet-offering maturity, while the U.S. and Singapore tied for second, followed by Australia and six European countries. European countries accounted for 12 of the top 20 countries." Steve Rohleder, head of Accenture's government operating group, told the Journal: "The public-acceptance issue continues to plague e-government." Rohleder "blamed 'mediocre' public acceptance of government sites on poor marketing, privacy and Internet security concerns, and on citizens' general preference for dealing with government officials by telephone or in person. As a result, governments are increasingly insisting that Internet investments produce real savings fast -- a shift that ultimately promises leaner, better government, according to Mr. Rohleder."
Accenture Canada's Graeme Gordon told the The Toronto Globe & Mail that Canada's top ranking was driven by "its relentless pursuit of user feedback [which] allowed it to continue to build what is clearly one of the world-leading customer-focused government on-line programs."
The London Guardian noted that for the first time, Britain ranked lower than France on the Accenture survey, dropping from eighth to ninth place. "Accenture found the biggest barrier to UK take-up of e-government was the inability of users to find the correct website for what they wanted to do," the newspaper noted. Britain is placing a lot of e-gov focus on the launch of its Directgov portal, which the government "hopes ... will eventually allow at least half the nation to book a hospital appointment, check benefit rights or do tax returns online. Local authorities are also developing their own platforms within the site with the aim of helping people find out about schools, dustbins and other services by keying in their postcode."
South Africa came in last on the Accenture list. "South Africa is the only African country in the survey and was competing against First World countries. In this light it's not bad at all," Charles Webster of Accenture told the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian.
* California state Controller Steve Westly last week outlined a number of e-government reform ideas at the Western Region Government Technology Conference, proposals he claimed in a statement could "save as much as $37.5 million a year by making California more efficient at handling everything from tax returns to travel vouchers." But Westly's e-government ideas didn't exactly create a lot of fanfare. An unscientific survey of news organizations (i.e. a quick search of Google's automated news site) called up zero news stories about his e-government agenda.
* Ireland needs to work on making its government Web sites more accessible to persons with disabilities, according to a study conducted by Ennis Information Age Services, an online marketing firm that focuses on accessibility issues. ElectronicNews.net has the news.
* Studying the success of e-government programs is en vogue. A recent study by the business-oriented Bangladesh Enterprise Institute surveyed current e-government initiatives in the south Asian country, concluding that The study found that e-government efforts in can help fight political corruption by promoting greater transparency in government activities, The Daily Star of Dhaka reported.
CNET's News.com reported Monday that 13 members of the House of Representatives are requesting that the General Accounting Office probe the security of e-voting machines. "While the existing data indicate that these machines can be more accurate than outdated punch card voting machines, experts are becoming increasingly concerned that many of these electronic voting machines have other flaws," the lawmakers said in a letter to the investigative agency.