Brown University study finds city Web sites lacking

Brown University study finds city Web sites lacking

The Web sites of the 70 largest American cities need major improvements and offer little more than basic information, researchers at Brown University’s Taubman Center for Public Policy said.

Researchers studied 1,506 city government sites for 28 separate features and evaluated those sites on a 100-point scale. They published their findings in Urban E-Government: An Assessment of City Government Web Sites.

Most city sites came up short in a number of areas including accessibility for the disabled, providing security and privacy policies, and offering fully executable online services.

Researchers ranked San Diego’s Web site as the best in the nation with Albuquerque, N.M., Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City rounding out the top five. Pollsters rated Albany, N.Y., Cleveland, Louisville, Ky., Greenville, S.C., and Miami lowest among those studied.

The study said general contact information, such as phone numbers or mailing addresses, is most prevalent on city Web sites, while the most common service available online is parking fee payment.

Las Vegas led the pack with 45 percent of its Web sites offering some type of online service. Salt Lake City (36 percent), Albuquerque (33 percent) and Indianapolis (33 percent) also rated well.

But of all the sites analyzed, only 13 percent offered services that users can fully execute online. Of this group, 9 percent offered one service, 2 percent offered two services, 1 percent offered three and 1 percent offered four services online. Eighty-seven percent have no online services, researchers found.

Most city sites also do not allow residents to pay for services by credit card or use digital signatures. Researchers found only 4 percent of all sites studied accepted credit cards and 0.02 percent used digital signatures.

The study can be found at www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/polreports/egovt01city.html.

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