Creating E-government the right way

Computerworld and the National Policy Research Council (NPRC) recently completed a study ranking the Websites of state, county, and local governments on usability and other criteria. In the study, Michigan's site earned top marks.

According to the article, the "the e-government report card is based on an extensive examination of 11,227 official government Web sites." Sites were judged on 25 criteria, including "whether people could use them to pay taxes, bid for contracts, find government jobs and complain to local officials about concerns such as potholes." Also included in the article was a report card summarizing other top e-government performers among city, state, and local sites.

What separated the winners from the losers?

The highest grades generally went to Web sites on which a wide range of services could easily be found on the home page instead of being buried several pages deep, said Robert McArthur, the NPRC’s e-government project director.

Michigan has made nearly 300 online services available on its Web site, and they’re heavily used, according to Jim Hogan, information officer at the Michigan Department of Information Technology in Lansing.

Incidentally, the Michigan site apparently runs on the propriety Vignette content management system. However, majority of the other site I surveyed on the report card looked as if they were built in-house. The use of an in-house built portal isn't too surprising when you consider many of these portals are piecing together legacy department sites that likely used various generation of Web technologies. Put it this way iframe and server side includes are being utilized a lot by some of these government portals.

I didn't come across a site on the list that looks as if it was built with an open-source CMS. That's not to say there aren't top government sites running an open-source CMS...I just didn't come across one.