The 11th eGovernment Benchmark report (SMART 2013/0053-3) is the first complete measurement of online public services (running across 2012-2013) according to the new eGovernment Benchmark Framework 2012-2015 . The measurement uses mystery shopping techniques to recreate citizen's journeys through government websites and services. It follows defined sets of life events (like starting a new company or moving), in seven different government areas. The report highlights progress and gaps in four areas:
1) User Centricity
Here the report looks at online availability and usability. Online availability assesses the existence of an electronic channel for public services either through a portal or standalone. Availability is at 72% on average in the EU, denoting some room for improvement. Online usability looks at the overall user experience by assessing usability (support, help and feedback functionalities), ease and speed of use. Although usability features are widely present on government websites (78%), ease and speed of use come out 20 percentage points lower (at 58%).
The Transparency indicator examines the extent to which governments are transparent about their own responsibilities and performance, the service delivery process, and the personal data involved. For instance, how good governments are at providing crucial information that citizens need when using online services, such as whether an application has been received, where it stands in the entire process, or what are the different steps in the process. Here, the overall EU score was only 48% in the Transparency indicator, which is mainly due to insufficient information provided to users during delivery of eGovernment services. The Transparency level is slightly higher when it comes to provision of institutional information about the administrations, or of information concerning the personal data involved in service delivery. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve fully open and transparent public services and organizations.
3) Cross Border Mobility
The report shows that EU governments still have far to go in giving businesses and citizens seamless access to online public services when they are away from their home country. Availability of cross-border public services (i.e., to nationals of a different EU country) stands at 42%, 30 percentage points behind availability of public services for country nationals. Transactional services - these services where an electronic transaction between the user and the public administration occurs - are possible only in very few cases, causing unnecessary burdens for citizens and businesses that want to move, work or start up in another EU country.
4) Key Enablers
The Key enablers indicator measures the availability of five technical elements which are essential for public services: Electronic Identification (eID), Electronic documents (eDocuments), Authentic Sources, Electronic Safe (eSafe) and Single Sign On (SSO). These, and innovative technical approaches are vitally important in order to deploy seamless online services. According to the report, key enablers are implemented in only less than half (49%) of the cases where they could be used. The level of implementation varies considerably from the 35% score of eSafe to the 62% of eID.
The report also summarizes key findings from the 2012 user survey (conducted over 28 000 European Internet users):
- At the moment, even if every European were to have Internet access and possess the skills to use it, there is a significant group of non-believers (38%) that refuse to use the online channel for public services.
- This is partly because users' expectations are driven up by their experience with private service providers (e.g., online banking), and online public services don't always live up to those expectations.
In order to close the gap, the Commission will engage with Member States to promote and adopt the Open Government approach: by opening their data, their processes and their services governments can provide better, more attractive services at less cost, create jobs and growth opportunities and increase accountability and trust. It also allows citizens to participate in the design, creation and delivery of digital public services. Future actions under Horizon 2020 and the Digital Services Infrastructures of the Connecting Europe Facility will support this Open Government approach.