After years of improving citizen satisfaction, e-government scores have leveled off, a possible sign of improving private sector Web sites.
Posted Dec 15, 2006
Just a month after the Office of Management and Budget issued the fourth quarter scorecard with mixed results for the President's Management Agenda, Foresee Results has found that government Web sites have improved only slightly. Citizens are slightly more satisfied this quarter than last with e-government, according to the fourth quarter 2006 release of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index.
Overall, the report found that total citizen satisfaction with the 87 measured Web sites was 73.9 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, up 0.3 percent from the third quarter 2006. This quarter's slight increase in aggregate citizen satisfaction continues a stagnating trend over the past year. Typically, the ACSI E-Government Satisfaction Index has shown a steady, more pronounced year-over-year improvement in overall score, proof that federal government Web sites have been able to stay ahead of citizens' evolving standards. This quarter, for the first time, the aggregate year-over-year satisfaction score is inert, with citizen satisfaction at the same level as it was in fourth quarter 2005. Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, says this could be attributed to citizens' standards for government Web sites continuing to rise, shaped in large part by other Web sites they visit, such as Amazon.com or online banking Web sites.
While e-government sites have narrowed the gap between private sector sites in comparable categories, Portals and News/Information sites, the public sector continues to lag significantly behind in e-Commerce/Transactions. This is important as many government sites are striving to migrate more business functions to the Web including distribution of forms, registration for services, and email inquiries.
Budgetary and resource constraints continue to be a daunting challenge faced by many government sites, as the election season has directed more scrutiny on the success of e-government initiatives. Freed says the fact that the President's Management Agenda scorecard does not measure citizen satisfaction as part of its e-government criteria may mean that this critical success measure is not given as much attention as it should receive, since citizen satisfaction is one of the driving forces in e-government adoption and penetration.
Despite these challenges, 44 percent of sites in the index saw their satisfaction scores increase from last quarter, a number far greater than the 24 percent of sites whose scores declined. This is an impressive reversal from the previous quarter-over-quarter results, when only 25 percent of the sites experienced score increases, while 40 percent suffered declines, according to the report.
"The crucial factor is whether e-government is achieving its promise and whether citizens feel it meets their needs and expectations," Freed says. "If not, they'll stick with more expensive and less convenient ways of dealing with the government."
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