By standing still, FirstGov slips in Web rankings

The federal government’s official e-government portal—Firstgov.gov—slid from first to ninth place in a ranking of the top federal government Web sites for 2005, according to a new study by Brown University of Providence, R.I.

Firstgov’s drop in the rankings can be attributed to its failure to add new features, said Darrell M. West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at the university, who directed the study. As a result, he said, it was surpassed by others.

“Firstgov is still a really good site—in the top 10. It maintained what it had been doing, while other agencies have added features,” he said. For example, the White House added many new features, including an interactive e-mail updating, which dramatically raised its score.

Web sites for the White House and the State and Treasury departments moved into first, second and third place in the ratings for federal e-government for 2005, climbing from 30th, 26th and 15th place, respectively.

Also among the 10 top-rated Web sites were those of the Environmental Protection Agency, Social Security Administration, Federal Communications Commission and the Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services departments.

The sixth annual evaluation examined state and federal government Web sites for such factors as quality, usability, ease of access, number of special services and features, and display of privacy and disability policies.

Among the states, Utah and Maine were in first and second place for e-government, with New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, Delaware, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Nevada forming the remainder of the top 10.

States ranking in the bottom 10 were Wyoming, Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Minnesota and Vermont.

West examined 1,620 state and federal Web sites in June and July of 2005.

Among the evidence of progress noted in the research: 73 percent of the sites have fully executable services online, up from 56 percent a year ago. Also, 69 percent display privacy policies, up from 63 percent last year.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Government Computer News’ sister publication Washington Technology.

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