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The Web Structure of E-Government - Developing a Methodology for Quantitative Evaluation

Vaclav Petricek

Tobias Escher

UCL Computer Science Gower Street WC1E 6BT London +44 20 7679 0418

UCL School of Public Policy 29/30 Tavistock Square WC1H 9QU London +44 20 7679 4903

v.petricek@cs.ucl.ac.uk

t.escher@ucl.ac.uk

Ingemar J. Cox

Helen Margetts

UCL Computer Science Gower Street WC1E 6BT London +44 20 7679 7608

Oxford Internet Institute 1 St. Giles OX1 3JS Oxford +44 1865 287207

ingemar@ieee.org

helen.margetts@oii.ox.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

In this paper we describe preliminary work that examines whether statistical properties of the structure of websites can be an informative measure of their quality. We aim to develop a new method for evaluating e-government. E-government websites are evaluated regularly by consulting companies, international organizations and academic researchers using a variety of subjective measures. We aim to improve on these evaluations using a range of techniques from webmetric and social network analysis. To pilot our methodology, we examine the structure of government audit office sites in Canada, the USA, the UK, New Zealand and the Czech Republic.

We report experimental values for a variety of characteristics, including the connected components, the average distance between nodes, the distribution of paths lengths, and the indegree and outdegree. These measures are expected to correlate with (i) the navigability of a website and (ii) with its “nodality” which is a combination of hubness and authority. Comparison of websites based on these characteristics raised a number of issues, related to the proportion of non-hyperlinked content (e.g. pdf and doc files) within a site, and both the very significant differences in the size of the websites and their respective national populations. Methods to account for these issues are proposed and discussed.

There appears to be some correlation between the values measured and the league tables reported in the literature. However, this multi-dimensional analysis provides a richer source of evaluative techniques than previous work. Our analysis indicates that the US and Canada provide better navigability, much better than the UK, however the UK site is shown to have the strongest “nodality” on the Web.

Categories and Subject Descriptors

  • H.

    3.5 [Online Information Services]: Web-based services

  • H.

    5.4 [Hypertext/Hypermedia]: Navigation, Architectures

  • K.

    4.1 [Public Policy Issues]

  • K.

    5.2 [Governmental Issues]

General Terms

Measurement, Performance, Design

Keywords

e-government, national audit offices, ranking, webmetric, network analysis, quantitative evaluation

Copyright is held by IW3C2. WWW 2006, May 22–26, 2006, Edinburgh, UK.

1. INTRODUCTION

Relationships between consumers and commercial organizations of all kinds have been revolutionized by the phenomenal rise of e- commerce. Similarly, the increasingly widespread use of the internet and the World Wide Web offers a potential transformation of government-citizen relationships in the development of ‘e-government’ – the use by government of information technologies both internally and to interact with citizens, businesses and other governments.

Most advanced industrial nations have put considerable political support and financial resources behind the development of e- government. By 2005, the UK for example has a ‘.gov’ domain of around 8 to 23 million pages (depending on which search engine estimates one tends to believe, MSN or Google respectively) and spends £14.5 billion a year on information technology in the pursuit of the Prime Minister’s commitment to have all government services electronically available by the end of 2005.

In spite of these resources (greater than 1 per cent of GDP in most industrialized nations is spent on government information technology), e-government has lagged behind e-commerce. In the UK, recent survey evidence [8] suggests that while 85% of Internet users claim to have looked for or bought goods and services online, and 50% of users to shop online at least once a month, only 39% have had any sort of interaction with government online in the last year. While figures for e- government usage are much higher in some countries, particularly Scandinavia, the generalization that government has been far less touched than commerce by widespread use of the World Wide Web holds true internationally. Governments are under pressure to demonstrate that the massive investments they are making are worthwhile.

Furthermore, lack of progress in e-government can affect a government’s policy-making capacity. One of the key ‘tools’ of public policy deployed by government has been defined within the field of political science as ‘nodality’ – the characteristic of being at the centre of social and informational networks [11][12]. The concept of ‘nodality’ in political science is analogous to authoritativeness (often indicated by number of links pointing to a site) and hubness (number of links pointing outside a site) with respect to computer science and the Web. Intuitively, we would expect government to become more nodal as the Internet and associated technologies become more embedded into all aspects of social and political life. However, if private sector organizations and non-governmental organizations are more successful at using the World Wide Web to increase their nodality, it may be that government will suffer a net loss of

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