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Every year, the EU Benchmark Survey assesses the quality of online public services in Europe. For the first time, the survey also looked at the users experience when accessing on-line public services, in recognition of the growing importance of this topic, and found mixed results.

From the press release:

“The survey examined three elements which are important to the user experience: the provision of a legally recognised, secure electronic identity, whether the service could be accessed via alternative channels such as call centres, kiosks, mobile phones and TV, and compliance of the websites with the International Accessibility Guidelines. The overall result for this indicator is more mixed and reaches 19%, with Austria, Bulgaria and Norway scoring above 30%. The most striking finding was that only 5% of websites make a specific reference to their compliance with international accessibility guidelines (WAI).

National portals fared much better. The report looked at the number of basic public services which can be accessed from the portal, the existence of personalised options, ease of navigation and whether its presentation is targeted at different kinds of users (businesses vs. citizens, around life events or around the structure of the administration). The overall score of 75% demonstrates that national governments consider the national portal as one of the cornerstones of their eGovernment plans.”

However the report itself puts some further qualification (page 27) on the above optimistic assessment of the user experience of national portals:

“We conclude that the national portals are well developed as user-centric gateways to public service delivery points.

However on the level of the transactional services itself, the agencies, the e-services delivery is still primarily organised around the needs of governmental organization more than around the needs of the users, being citizens and business. [My emphasis]

The survey, carried out for the European Commission by consultants Capgemini, examined over 14,000 web sites offering 20 basic public services in the 27 EU Member States plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Turkey. In 2007 the online sophistication of public service delivery reached an overall score of 76%, while 58% of the measured public services are fully available online.

Austria stands out both on sophistication and full on-line availability, with scores of 99 and 100% respectively. Portugal has made major progress since 2006 and Malta and Slovenia stand out as countries that have embraced eGovernment and advanced online service delivery and therefore top the charts in 2007.

- Read press release
Download report (pdf, 15 mb, 123 pages)