Canada Is Still No. 1 In E-Government Rankings

The United States and Singapore were a distant second in the annual ratings by Accenture.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 6, 2004

3 Min Read

The United States can take a lesson from its neighbors to the north when it comes to executing E-government initiatives. For the fourth straight year, Canada topped the annual list issued this week by the management consultant and IT outsourcer Accenture of most mature international E-government offering. The United States is no laggard; it moved up one notch, tying for No. 2 with Singapore. Yet, with a score of 80 out of 100, Canada easily outdistanced the runners-up, both of which received a score of 67.

The United States' gargantuan size and fervent, federalist approach to government works against it in the ranking. Getting federal agencies, let alone state and local governments, to jointly offer services through a single Web portal--something Canada and other governments do--is a major challenge that has yet to be broached here because of the size of the government as well as the diversity of programs offered through states and local governments. For instance, Canadians can get the information and permits needed from federal, provincial, and local authorities to start a business through a single portal.

Still, Canada does something that U.S. federal, state, and local officials can easily emulate. Most notably: ask citizens what E-services they want. Unlike many countries, Canada's E-government action plan is built on a foundation of facts based on known information from its customer base. How does the government know what its citizens want? It asks them. Canada regularly surveys citizens and businesses about their attitudes and needs--more so than any other country. The federal, nine provincial and territorial, and five municipal governments--through the Institute for Citizen-Centered Services--recently sponsored a study querying 9,000 Canadians about E-government, using online surveys, usability interviews, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews. "The idea is to reach out to customers and to proactively see what they want," says Steve Rohleder, Accenture's group chief executive for government.

Canada also actively markets its E-government services. It advertises on TV and radio, ad in airline magazines and newspapers to get citizens to use its portal,

Our northern neighbors also have shown some ingenuity in how to reach citizens. One of the more interesting E-government initiatives in Canada, according to Accenture, is its wireless portal that gives citizens mobile access to information, E-mail, and personal services. The wireless portal provides Canadians access to information on border wait times, government news, and economic indicators.

The government portal lets user create their own customized page and offers alternate versions of its main site, such as for use on a mobile phone or through a BlackBerry device.

Rohleder points out that Canada, like many nations, has a national CIO, someone who's been given the muscle to drive standards and create a common E-government offering. Though the United States has an administrator for IT and E-government in the White House Office of Management and Budget, that official doesn't have the clout of a CIO, Rohleder says; the E-administrator is more of an influencer than an enforcer.

Canada, the United States, and most other nations find themselves at a crossroads, according the report, entitled "E-Government Leadership: High Performance, Maximum Value." E-government progress is decelerating as governments seek new strategies to drive high performance to produce better outcomes in more cost-effective ways.

E-government, for the most part, has been a carbon copy of E-business in recent years. Now, Rohleder says, governments will seek unique solutions for E-government. "Governments are reevaluating their business models," Rohleder says. "The next wave of E-government--the high-performance government--will take a holistic view that's driving them to rationalize the investment they made, reaching out to their customers, the citizens and business they serve."

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