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Online Transparency Drives E-Government Satisfaction, Trust

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The second quarter E-Government Transparency Index report from ForeSee Results shows that online transparency is a key driver of satisfaction and overall trust in government Web sites.

The index defines transparency as the citizen perception of the thoroughness, completeness and newness of the information in a federal Web site — the sense that the agency is involved is telling everything that it knows — and how quickly that information is delivered.

This quarter’s overall e-government transparency index slipped slightly to 75 on the study’s 100-point scale. That’s down one point, or 1.2 percent, from the prior quarter.

Participation in the Index is up 18 percent this quarter, with 27 federal Web sites now measuring and reporting quarterly transparency scores.

Federal agency Web sites with high online transparency scores have substantially higher satisfaction overall than sites with low transparency scores. When citizens find a Web site highly transparent (80 or higher on the 100-point index), they are 85 percent more satisfied than citizens who rate a federal Web site’s transparency poorly (70 or lower).

In addition to its impact on customer satisfaction, if citizens perceive an e-government site to be highly transparent, the other returns for that agency are significant — visitors are more likely to return to the site, recommend it, use it rather than a more costly channel, and even have higher levels of trust in the agency.

While online transparency drives satisfaction, trust, and efficiency for e-government overall, it is not necessarily the highest priority for every individual site. Some sites will reap the biggest rewards from focusing on online transparency, while others would be better off improving search, navigation, or site functionality. The diagnosis varies from site to site.

“Some federal sites will see huge returns from making small improvements to online transparency; others can maintain the status quo and focus on other things,” said the study’s author, Larry Freed, president and CEO of Ann Arbor-based ForeSee Results. “But measuring transparency is the first step, because you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.”

Random surveys are conducted of visitors to the 27 federal Web sites included in this Transparency Index. The visitors are asked a
series of questions about their experience with and perceptions
of various elements of the Website, including three aspects of
online transparency.

To measure and benchmark transparency on federal Websites, citizens are asked multiple questions about how thorough the information on the site is, how accessible it is, and how quickly it is made available. They are asked to rate their perceptions on a ten-point scale. Citizens’ responses are then processed through the ACSI statistical engine and the result is a set of priorities for improvement. These priorities are not determined by the agencies or even by the lowest-scoring elements, but by the citizens themselves and the ACSI methodology. Thus, the survey is able to calculate whether transparency is a top priority for an individual Web site. For some, it is; for others, it isn’t.

Top site scores on the transparency index range from 84 for the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 83 for the National Human Genome Research Institute, 81 for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and 80 for the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Sites scoring below 70 included the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The study is based on a survey of nearly 58,000 U.S. citizens who visited federal Web sites in the second quarter of 2010.

The Q2 2010 E-Government Transparency Index is available for free download at www.foreseeresults.com/research-white-papers/foresee-results-egovernment-transparency-index-Q2-2010.shtml.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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