US e-govt survey gives NZ higher ranking on lower score

New Zealand has reversed the drastic slide in its ranking against other nations for e-government development, according to a US-based survey; but it still shows a low score for e-government maturity overall.

New Zealand has reversed the drastic slide in its ranking against other nations for e-government development, according to a US-based survey; but it still shows a low score for e-government maturity overall.

The survey, from Brown University, is performed annually and calculates a multi-factor score expressed as a percentage. This includes points both for features of government websites, such as contact information, expressed privacy policies and security protection, and for the number of services provided online. However, the elements of the score change from year to year; in particular, elements which almost every government agency now has, such as a phone contact on its website, are eliminated from consideration in the latest survey.

This means a government’s e-readiness score may decrease from one year to the next, even as its ranking rises in the Brown survey. Ranking, of course, is heavily dependent on the movement of other countries. Both these factors affected the New Zealand government, which rated:

  • 36.8% for a ranking of 26th in 2001;

  • 42.3% but 81st in 2002;

  • and 35.5%, but 13th this year.
The apparent disastrously low ranking last year was due to countries that had ranked low in the list putting on a sudden spurt in development, says Wellington consultant Laurence Millar. It may also have suffered from sampling error.

Some features, such as attention to privacy and security and time to respond to email (if the agency responds at all), continue to rate badly worldwide. New Zealand agencies have increased markedly on these fronts, but they continue to score poorly for providing foreign languages on websites. Millar says that is surprising, given government awareness of the need to communicate with Maori.

Millar quotes a number of other e-government surveys, some a year or two old, which ranked New Zealand anywhere from third to 20th. The former figure, from a UN survey in 2001-2, was still being quoted in a New Zealand Cabinet paper on the revised e-government strategy, in June this year.

Possibly the most keenly followed e-government survey, that of international IT consultancy Accenture, did not include New Zealand in its league table this year, since Accenture no longer has a local office.

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