Mixed findings on local body websites

An University of Auckland masters student's study into local authority websites has found that while many are providing good quality information for ratepayers, some councils still have a long way to go.

An University of Auckland masters student's study into local authority websites has found that while many are providing good quality information for ratepayers, some councils still have a long way to go.

Maria Fung, from the department of management science and information systems, has already surveyed council websites once and is in the process of revisiting the sites to see what has changed since the first survey.

"There are some changes coming through, particularly in the regional councils now that they have to separate out their rates bills from the city councils." Fung says the regional councils are beginning to add payment gateways as well as more rates and property information to their sites.

The sites were ranked on 30 different topics, grouped in four major categories: Information, Legal Statements, Promotion/Retention and Non-Functional. Dunedin City Council scored the highest grade, offering service in 27 of the 30 categories.

Fung says while most of the councils were good at the basics of the information category, most had contact details prominently displayed for example, legal disclaimers were few and far between.

"Most of the sites scored very well under the 'Information' category but very badly under 'legal statements'. Only 25% of the sites have a legal disclaimer, 17% have a privacy statement, 15% have terms of use and 43% have a security/copyright statement".

Fung has also interviewed one of the councils, will conduct another interview via email and is hoping to interview a third on views and attitudes to the website. Fung is also running an online user survey to see how the end users find the sites.

"Comments I've received range from things like 'a good range of information' to 'it is so awful'."

Those interested in filling out the survey form can find it here. Fung hopes to finish her study by February next year.

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