Study: One-fourth of federal websites surveyed rank high in transparency

Eight of 32 websites earn highest ratings for transparency

A quarter of federal websites surveyed scored high in online transparency, which also was found to be associated with high ratings for customer satisfaction and participation, according to a new study from the research firm ForeSee Results.

For the eight of 32 federal websites that scored 80 or higher on a 100-point transparency scale in 2010, there is a strong correlation with customers being more satisfied, more likely to rely on the website as a primary resource of information and more likely to recommend the website to others, ForeSee said in a report issued Feb. 22.

Top-scoring agencies for the fourth quarter of 2010 included the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Navy, Air Force and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

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“Not only does transparency have a signifi­cant and quantifiable impact on making government more democratic and cost-effective, it is highly prized by citizens,” Larry Freed, president of ForeSee, wrote in the report.

ForeSee surveyed more than 300,000 people who visited 32 federal websites in calendar year 2010. The 32 websites are sponsored by agencies that cooperated with ForeSee’s surveys. The ForeSee E-Government Transparency Index was created by ForeSee based on methodology used in the American Customer Satisfaction index. 

Eight of the 32 websites scored 80 or above for the fourth quarter of 2010, while one scored below 70. The remainder scored between 70 and 79.

Average online transparency scores for all 32 sites were measured over a 15-month period and did not change much. The aggregate score rose from 75.4 in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 76.2 in the fourth quarter of 2010. There was a drop in the second quarter of 2010, but the average score rebounded by year’s end.

ForeSee also measured correlations between high transparency and other attributes such as customer satisfaction. When visitors find a site highly transparent (80 or higher on a 100-point index), they give 85 percent higher satisfaction ratings than do visitors to a website with a transparency rating of 70 or below.

Also, visitors to highly transparent sites are 48 percent more likely to participate with the agency, 38 percent more likely to return to the site, 62 percent more likely to recommend the site, and 55 percent more likely to use the site as a primary resource, ForeSee said.

Federal sites that scored highest in transparency in the fourth quarter of 2010 were:

  • The USCIS Spanish language portal, 86.
  • The NOAA portal, 83.
  • The USCIS portal, 83.
  • The Navy portal, 82.
  • The National Human Genome Research Institute, 82.
  • The Air Force, 81.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 80. Bureau of Consular Affairs, 80.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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