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3/19/2008
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Citizens Less Happy With E-Government Sites

It's the third consecutive quarter that satisfaction dropped, according to a University of Michigan customer satisfaction report.

Citizens are more dissatisfied with federal government Web sites now than they were at the end of last year, according to statistics released Tuesday.

The University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction showed that citizen satisfaction with federal government Web sites declined in the first quarter of 2008, from the last quarter of 2007. It's the third consecutive quarter that satisfaction dropped, according to ACSI at the University of Michigan.

On a 100-point scale, scores dropped to 72.4. That's the lowest score in three years and one point lower than the same time last year.

Some of the dissatisfaction may be blamed on uncertainty about a new administration's commitment to improving e-government, and some stems from disappointment with portals and departments' main sites, according to ACSI.

"When President Bush made e-government a priority in his management agenda, we saw an improvement in satisfaction, but there's no telling whether or not that commitment will be shared by a new administration," Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the report, said in a prepared statement. "Some government Web sites may be holding off on putting the necessary resources into improving the citizen experience until they have a better sense of whether or not they'll be able to finish what they start. Unfortunately, citizens are the big losers when e-government is in limbo."

Satisfaction with portals and main sites dropped to 71.7 -- more than three points since the second quarter of 2006, according to the index. The disappointment may be because those who run portals and department main pages lack control over features and content.

Not all of the experiences are negative. Citizens are increasingly satisfied with federal Web sites' e-commerce and transactions, with the category scoring 75.7, up 1.5% this quarter.

"The increasing scores for the e-commerce category of e-government indicate that citizens are eager for government sites to evolve from information sources to conduits for conducting business with the government," Freed said.

Still, the e-commerce category hasn't kept pace with the private sector, according to the ACSI. And the improvement hasn't been great enough to offset declines in all other categories, including news and information (which slipped .8% to 71.7), as well as careers and recruitment (which declined .1% to 77.1).

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