E-Government in Australia: a citizen’s Perspective
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R. Traunmüller (Ed.): EGOV 2004, LNCS 3183, pp. 317–327, 2004.
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004
e-Government in Australia: A Citizen’s Perspective
Hernan Riquelme and Passarat Buranasantikul
School of Marketing
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University
239 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000, Australia
Abstract. A representative sample of Australian web sites was investigated for
its responsiveness to a request from a citizen, their accessibility, public out-
reach, privacy and security, among other characteristics. This research study
shows that Australian e-government web sites lack a customer orientation, that
is, web sites that tailor their services and tools towards the customers’ needs.
Only a small percentage of web sites provided content in alternative languages
(a limitation in a country that is characterised as multicultural), and a great ma-
jority of web sites did not respond to a simple e-mail of a citizen. Australian e-
government websites are performing very well with almost 96% of all exam-
web sites provided clear statements reassuring a citizen’s concern for security.
Although the euphoria of the dot com companies have passed, the idea that govern-
ments should be more accessible to the people through the Internet has increased.
Many governments have already adopted web capabilities and the Internet to conduct
their business. Some studies have already been conducted in Australia to examine the
progress of online government activities mainly by government agencies and consult-
ants. The research reported in this article was conducted from the perspective of a
citizen. The study looks at material that would aid a citizen to find out information or
a service if s/he would have a problem or need for a particular benefit.
The research study reported in this paper intends to measure the progress of a sam-
ple of 87 Australian electronic government services. The study has been conducted
through the analysis of materials and features that have been made available on the
Australian government websites. The main objectives of the study are:
(a) To measure the evolution stage of Australian electronic government’s service:
informational stage, access to downloadable forms stage, transactional stage, and
transformation or integration electronic government stage. (b)To measure the extent
of accessibility to Australian e-government web sites, in particular if the websites are
not deepening inequality amongst some citizens with disabilities. (c) To analyze the
availability of materials or features that an average citizen logging onto a public sec-
tor website would have. (d) To know how efficiently Australian e-government web
sites respond to a citizen’s request for information. (e) To know to what extent Aus-
tralian e-government web sites respond to a citizen’s concern regarding security and
318 Hernan Riquelme and Passarat Buranasantikul
Governments have been struggling to find ways in which to serve their citizens in
the most effective ways. The American government attempted to reinvent itself dur-
ing the eighties to improve quality and performance of government activities .
Later in the early 2000 the Progressive Policy Institute of the U.S. reported on a num-
ber of strategies for change which they called principles for implementing digital
Australia, considered one of the leaders in the application of information technol-
ogy to the government sector , also introduced a government online strategy in
2000 and continued with the Better Services, Better Government strategy in Novem-
ber 2003 . The Commonwealth’s intention is to move from an online phase to an e-
government phase. This last phase implies the transformation of government proce-
dures that will allow citizens and businesses to have better services.
All these initiatives regard a citizen as a customer and thus become the central fo-
cus in the development of government services and delivery. This new perspective
challenges public officers to envision government in a different way , as a govern-
ment that empowers citizens and provides the tool of empowerment on its web sites,
namely chat rooms , online meetings, online voting, or at a higher level, virtual de-
E-government has been defined broadly as “including the use of all information
and communication technologies, from fax machines to wireless palm pilots, to facili-
tate the daily administration of government ”. However, the same document notes
that the most popular definition of e-government is one that is driven exclusively by
the Internet in order to provide citizens with access to services and ultimately to par-
ticipation. It is this last definition that is entertained in this paper since an analysis of
access to participation of citizens in Australia is also included.
There are some specific areas in the e-government delivery that this research is
more concerned in. These are the concern for accessibility for people with disabilities
and also people not literate in the official language in Australia, that is, English. Other
aspects of special concern are security and privacy, information availability, elec-
tronic participation, and finally electronic responsiveness of government to citizens.
The concern for accessibility, sometimes addressed as digital divide, has been
raised at many levels . The concept of digital divide has been observed at the geo-
graphic level, income, race, age, education, and household level .
In the United States, government websites have improved very slowly in providing
access to information in material other than English. Government websites that pro-
vided foreign language translation features in 2000 was only 4%, the following year it
increased to 6%, and in year 2002 only increased by one percentage point . In
Spain, apart from the Basque region, only 4.4% of the websites offered other lan-
guages in the government websites . A survey of Australian government officials
at the federal, state, and local level concluded that a great majority of government
websites did not cater for people who do not speak English .
Another concern of citizens is privacy and security . E-government has created
the potential to share information of citizens across different government agencies to
provide a better service, however, governments must also put in place guarantees that
data ownership remains in the citizens’ hands. Citizens do not want personal informa-
tion to be shared or sold to any third party.
Security has been considered one of the imperatives in e-government because of
the amount of information governments handle and the sensitivity of such information
. Citizens are afraid that their records or any parts of the transactions on a gov-
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