Accessibility of online services grows: UN

Tuesday, 1 July 2014 09:44am

The accessibility of online services around the world has dramatically increased in the last two years, according to United Nations (UN).

In its 2014 e-Government Survey, the UN stated that in the two years since its 2012 survey the percentage of government websites with information for “disadvantaged and vulnerable groups”, including people with disabilities, had grown from 28 per cent to 64 per cent.

This, the UN said, was due to the greater recognition by governments around the world of the enabling power of the internet and information and communications technology (ICT).

“Clearly understanding the link between the burgeoning online opportunities and human wellbeing, many of the developed countries have a stated policy of e-inclusion of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society which are generally the last to come on board the technology train,” the 2014 e-Government Survey states.

According to the survey, there was a clear link between a given nation’s economic and social development and the likelihood it would have a high degree of online inclusion.

For example, in the Africa region just four per cent of countries had online services for people with disabilities, while 14 per cent of countries in the Oceania region had similar services. In the Americas this figure was 20 per cent, while in Asia the figure was 34 per cent. The Europe region leads the world with 47 per cent of countries having online services for people with a disability.

A similar level of access within the regions was also recorded for services for the poor, services for older people, and services for immigrants.

Based on its findings, the report made several recommendations for governments to improve access to the internet and technology:

  • From a policy standpoint, efforts at bridging the digital divide must be broad based across the policy spectrum and include government leaders at the highest levels. At the national level, it is important to provide for policies that are aimed at equal opportunities for ICT access and inclusion.
  • Formulation of a coherent and coordinated ICT policy at the national, regional and local levels should include a strategic framework identifying costs and benefits to the persons living in poverty and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
  • Governments also need to revisit the strategic framework of ICT access for the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in terms of both increasing the level and reducing the cost of connectivity, which in some countries is prohibitively expensive.

Australia ranks second in e-Government

In addition the 2014 e-Government Survey found that the Australian Government had done a particularly good job in e-Government — the provision of services, data and communications online.

Australia ranked second behind South Korea and ahead of Singapore in the UN’s measure of progress, the e-Government Development Index (EGDI). In 2012, Australia ranked 12th in the world.

“The Australian e-Government portal offers an extensive A to Z list of e-services and forms, both at the federal and local levels, as well as connections to national, local and regional government websites,” the survey notes of Australia.

“The portal also offers a section for starting a career or looking for a job online; as well as information on starting a business in Australia.”

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