States Lag Feds in E-Gov

Indiana, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee and Washington lead the way in providing electronic government services, according to a report released Sept. 10 by Brown University. But states still have a long way to go in providing the level of services offered by federal government Web sites, the report found.

The Food and Drug Administration earned the top score among federal Web sites, followed closely by the Department of Agriculture, Federal Communications Commission, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Internal Revenue Service.

The various circuit courts of appeal Web sites accounted for the bottom 10 rankings in the study. Oklahoma, New Mexico, Alabama, New Hampshire and Wyoming rounded out the lowest scores among the states.

The Brown survey graded 58 federal and 1,621 state Web sites on the presence of 32 different features, such as office phone numbers, audio clips, disability access, privacy, security and tax and license fee payment services.

One important development over last year's study was that many states created service portals, which are single Web sites that integrate e-government services offered across many state agencies.

The number of sites offering online access to publications and reports increased markedly over the past year: 93 percent vs. 74 percent in 2000. In addition, 84 percent of sites now provide clear e-mail addresses, in addition to a simple Webmaster address, where consumers can direct inquiries to the appropriate person.

While access to e-government personnel has increased, the report found overall responsiveness had declined; 80 percent of test e-mail queries were answered, down from 91 percent a year ago. Last year, 73 percent of responses arrived within a single day. This year, only 52 percent came back within 24 hours, and 11 percent took five days or more.

Darrell West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, said few government agencies offer true interactive services, such as online forums where citizens are invited to voice their opinion or suggestions about a given program or service.

"In fact, there are lots of advanced technologies appearing in the private sector, such as push technology and the ability to personalize a Web site, but most [agencies] aren't really doing that," West said. "In our opinion, this is a real loss."

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