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Australia 8th in 2008 global e-government readiness index

25 January, 2008
By Allison Orr

The United Nations has released its E-Government Survey 2008, which places Australia 8th in eReadiness and 5th in eParticipation. 

The survey presents a comparative assessment of the 192 UN members States' response to the demands of citizens and businesses for quality government services and products.  The report finds that while governments are moving forward in eGovernment development, only a few have made the necessary investment to move from applications for specific initiatives to an overall integrated connected governance program.  The report says that a robust broadband network is critical to the roll out of such an eGovernment program.

eReadiness
The report finds Australia’s efforts in reducing government administrative burden and improving efficiency as commendable, hence the reasonably high ranking.  Australia is cited as one of the few countries to have established a central body to coordinate information and data sharing policies within the public sector.

Australia ranks high in various areas, including web measurement, which looks at how effective governments are in providing eGovernment applications and tools to meet the changing needs of citizens for more information and services online.  Australia’s national website at www.australia.gov.au was described as "comprehensive" and as being "loaded with information, services and links to government resources".  The Australian website was also listed as one of only twenty-one government sites that have online consultation as a feature.

As a region, Europe comes out on top, with European countries making up seventy per cent of the top 35 countries, and for the first time since the survey was conducted, the United States has been beaten to the top spot by three Scandanavian countries: Sweden, Denmark and Norway.  No countries from Africa, the Carribean, Central America, Central Asia, South America or Sountern Asia making it into the top 35 list.

Top 10 Countries in the 2008 e-Government Readiness Index:
1. Sweden
2. Denmark
3. Norway
4. USA
5. Netherlands
6. Republic of Korea
7. Canada
8. Australia
9. France
10. United Kingdom

eParticipation

"Information and Communication Technologies have raised citizens’ expectations of their government. Citizens now expect to be directly involved in designing government programmes and services."

The eParticipation index assesses the extent to which governments proactively solicit citizen input, and in this index, Australia is ranked 5th, with the United States coming in the top position.  The ranking assessed three categories, eInformation, eConsultation and eDecision Making.

Our high ranking for eParticipation was largely due to our result for eInformation, for which we scored the highest global ranking.  This assessed national websites and portals to determine if governments are providing the basic information needed for citizen participation.  Australia scored much lower on eConsultation and eDecision Making.

Despite Australia's high ranking in eReadiness relative to other UN countries, last week an expert from the University of California, Larry Smarr, warned that Australia risks being unable to compete in the global economy if it does not improve its broadband Internet capabilities.  Smarr was in Australia to help launch a super-fast link between the University of California and the University of Melbourne that is 250 times faster than an ordinary broadband connection.  Most of the funding for the project was provided by the University of Melbourne ($500,000), with the Victorian government contributing $120,000.  The link will be used for researchers to collaborate with scientists from around the world.

The Australian Government has promised to spend almost $5 billion over the next five years upgrading Australia's broadband, which will deliver connections 40 times faster than what's currently available.

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