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Number of Hosts

Total

Normalized

98

0.0077

8

0.0086

79

0.0945

308

0.0765

123

0.0064

CA

5516

0.43

267

39%

CZ

21

0.02

8

1%

NZ

526

0.63

96

50%

UK

886

0.22

568

4%

US

243

0.01

190

<1%

Number of External Outlinks

Number of External Pages

% of Pages Containing External

Total

Normalized

Linked to

Link

% of Government Hosts

Number of Different

Governments

Audit Offices

67% 50% 52% 44% 35%

4 4 16 48 1

1 3 13 43 1

Table 7. Outlink analysis of the audit offices’ websites.

institutions – at least half of all websites pointing to an audit office are located in the same country. This adds relevance to the normalization by national Internet population that we applied earlier.

4.2.2 Outlink Analysis The number of outlinks from a site is related to its ‘hubness’ [30]. In political science terms, hubness could be seen as a measure of the extent to which a organization ‘collects’ information from the outside world, by providing users with links to other sources of information.

Governments tend to perceive themselves as the ultimate authority on information. Therefore we assume it is less likely for government websites to function as hubs and to point to other sources of information, except perhaps to other governments.

Table 7 provides a comparison of outlink statistics for our five datasets. There are substantial differences in the number of external outlinks across sites. While it was felt appropriate to normalize the external inlinks of each site by the respective sizes of their internet populations, such normalization does not seem appropriate for outlinks as the creation of an outlink is not performed by individual users. Instead, we propose to normalize by the size of each site, to provide the number of outlinks per page. Surprisingly, after normalization, we see that NZ exhibits the highest number of outlinks per page (63%). This may be misleading, since it is quite common to link to generic sites such as “Adobe Acrobat Reader”. This is confirmed when we consider column 4 of Table 7, the number of unique external pages pointed to. Here, we see that while the total number of outlinks for NZ is 526, the total number of different outlink targets is only 96.

A similar change can be observed for Canada if one considers the number of hosts pointed to instead the total number of outlinks. Although Canada links heavily outside, it does not point to many different websites. In fact, a closer examination of Canada’s outlinks revealed that the majority of these links have one single target – the website of the Canadian government. In contrast, the National Audit Office of the United Kingdom is heavily interlinked with foreign governments, unlike Canada and the United States. While a considerable share of the outlinks point to government websites, audit office link also to other sources.

We can distinguish the websites linked to by the audit office’s according to their top-level domain. The North American countries are primarily inward looking with few links to websites in foreign countries. Here clearly the UK takes the lead. Another interesting result is that most audit offices are obviously not afraid of linking to commercial sites.

5. DISCUSSION

We have performed a preliminary comparative study of government audit offices on Canada, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. This study was based on an examination of the structural characteristics of these websites. Website properties based on usage statistics were not considered due to the difficulty of acquiring such data. Despite this lack of usage information, it appears that structural information is informative as to the quality of the websites.

The structural characteristics examined form two categories, internal structure that is indicative of the navigability of a site, and external structure that is indicative of the nodality (hubness and authority) of a site. A further subdivision may be made with respect to nodality. We use the distinction between hubs and authorities to distinguish between nodality in terms of collecting information (hubness) and nodality in terms of disseminating

information (authoritativeness). A variety of properties were examined

  • diameter of the site,

average distance between nodes, largest strongly connected component, and the number of external inlinks and outlinks. These properties have been well studied within computer science, the Web and the social sciences. Nevertheless, our comparative analysis revealed some shortcomings of these properties, due to the diversity of the websites and countries under investigation. It is clear that in many cases, these properties need to be normalized to account for the size of a website and/or the size of the national Web. In the latter case, this was approximated by normalizing for the internet penetration in each country. Other normalizations are possible and future work will consider such issues as the variation in gross domestic product of each nation. Furthermore, a simple count of the number of external inlinks and outlinks can be misleading. At the very least, it is necessary to adjust the results to only consider unique source or target pages/hosts. The US and Canada emerge as the most internally connected and navigable sites in relation to their size, with the UK scoring the lowest on this dimension. The smallest sites, the Czech Republic and New Zealand score highest in absolute terms, having the largest strongly connected component, the lowest average and median directed diameter, the lowest percentage of unreachable pairs and the highest degree of centralization (taking only navigable content into account, as we believe should be the case). For the larger sites, the US and Canada score generally better for navigability than the UK across the same measures, in spite of being far larger than the UK site. When we take size into account (by normalizing for the number of pages), the UK’s position as a laggard becomes most marked, with the highest directed diameter, directed distance and percentage of unreachable pairs of all the sites, including the Czech Republic and New Zealand. To summarize the results with

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