Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Citizen-Centric Portals

U.S. Service MemberI'm working on a citizen-facing, U.S. government portal in the early stages of becoming an exemplar for e-Government services. I did a peer review to identify other sites that also: 1) Steward and present content from across organizations, 2) Require close inter-organizational coordination for user authentication to deliver secure access to applications and data, and 3) Have to pull everyone involved up by the bootstraps to get the job done.

Here's what I found.

Commitment to eGovernance
Governments throughout the world are demonstrating growing commitment to the ideal of citizen-centric governance. The classic approach to realizing this via a portal is to develop one-stop, online access to an array of government services. This gets developed in stages:
  • Catalog of information, with links to content hosted externally
  • Catalog of interactive and transactional e-services, with links to applications hosted externally
  • Integrated platform for citizen engagement and collaboration
  • Integrated delivery of all government information and services
  • Integration of private as well as public services

User-centered Approach

The user experience on government portals is likewise seen on a scale of maturity:
  • Focus on defined citizen groups
  • Access to information and services organized around simple topics
  • Elaboration of information organization around “life events” and expanded topics
  • Focus on universal access through multiple language versions and accessibility to individuals with disabilities
  • Expanded focus to include, businesses, government employees, and interstate/international visitors

Game Changers

Visionary government portal projects tend to change the culture of government itself by their very existence. For instance:
  • Delivering a functioning portal at any level depends on successful back-office integration of information systems and business processes through a shared or negotiated infrastructure. This involves carrying out challenging inter-agency technical integration and process re-engineering.
  • A robust portal catalyzes the development of new electronic services that could not otherwise be made available.
  • By enabling more client-oriented, accountable, and effective government, a portal can be a powerful instrument for administrative reform, anti-waste, and anti-corruption.
Case Studies
Some outstanding examples of mature government portals are described below.
  • USA.gov (http://www.usa.gov) is an extensive database of links to information and online services on state and federal agency websites. Driven from search results via the usasearch.gov search platform, USA.gov categorizes content for browse and search by audiences, tasks, topic, agency, and other dimensions. However, it does not integrate transactional functionality within the portal.
  • Direct.gov.uk (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/index.htm), Great Britain’s government site, provides single point of entry for all key government services, information, tools, and transactions (incorporating 18 government departments and 240 local services). Transactional tools are incorporated directly within the portal. Content is organized by subject, people, and other dimensions. The intention is to ultimately federate access to all public services online.
  • Service Canada (http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca) is a central point of access to Government of Canada information. The initiative provides look-and-feel directives to agencies, and the portal links to information and online transactional services. Categorizations include by life events, audience, and subject. It is a well-organized catalog, though it does not integrate functionality within the portal.
  • Gov.sg (http://www.gov.sg), the Singapore government’s portal, provides well-organized and comprehensive access to information and e-services. It’s segmented to serve citizens/residents, the business community, and non-residents with separate, tailored portals. For instance, the MyeCitizen section offers secure logged-in and non-logged-in access to an array of e-services integrated within the portal itself.
  • MyEGov (http://english.www.gov.tw) is Taiwan’s national portal. It consists of a catalog of links to resources to government sites, half of which offer online services, and provides user customization options and logged-in access to additional features.
  • Korea.net (http://www.korea.net) earned Brown University’s top spot among e-government websites. The portal offers over 800 e-services, an abundance of information and multimedia content, and interactive features including feedback forms, user customization, feeds, and mobile access.

National e-Government Portals Conference, 2007, World Bank http://go.worldbank.org/KEP92PFAQ0
Transparency and Open Government, GSA 2009 http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Transparency_and_Open_Government/
Global E-Government 2007, Darrell West, Brown University http://www.insidepolitics.org/egovt07int.pdf

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