User-friendliness of public e-services needs more attention

Toomas Mattson | 10/12/2016 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 12 October 2016 – The National Audit Office is of the opinion that the state must start giving more attention to the usability of public e-services, because the e-services offered by the state are not uniformly simple and user-friendly, or sources of added value. Mandatory quality requirements should be set for public e-services to ensure the good usability of all of the state’s e-services and the agencies that provide e-services should regularly assess and improve their usability.

The National Audit Office analysed eight e-services of four information systems (Public Procurement Register, information system for submission of data for national statistics, public e-File and information system for spatial planning procedures) and found that some of the reviewed public e-services are not easy or convenient to use. For example, not all of the services in the sample could be used without guidance or instruction materials. Also, using some of the services was inconvenient for certain user groups – no simplified or adapting websites had been created for using the e-services on smart devices and changing the size and contrast of the font was usually not possible.

It also became evident that some agencies followed the logic of dealing with paperwork in the development of e-services and therefore failed to take advantage of all of the opportunities to provide services more efficiently than before. In the case of at least two of the services analysed during the audit, using the e-service required passing all of the same stages of the service process that were necessary when, so-say, using the service on paper. However, the process of providing an e-service should be simplified, because this is the way how time and money can be saved in addition to using a simple and convenient service. The agencies had not assessed the amount of time and money saved with e-services during the creation of the services or thereafter.

The National Audit Office is of the opinion that the usability and quality of the e-services offered by the state is uneven. The uneven quality starts from the fact that the understanding of state agencies of the assessment of the user-friendliness and quality of e-services is different. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, however, has developed many optional guidelines for levelling the quality of e-services, but the agencies that provide services have not followed them enough.

The National Audit Office is of the opinion that the establishment of user-friendly, convenient, simple and efficient e-services that offer added value and function without problems requires stronger guidance by the state and they should be developed further in such a manner that the assessment of the usability of e-services and information systems is well considered throughout the state. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has prepared a regulation of the Government of the Republic which requires all agencies to assess and improve the quality and usability of e-services, and calculate their added value. The National Audit Office advised to enforce the regulation quickly.

Auditor General Alar Karis said the following when commenting on the audit: “I am pleased that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has taken steps to improve the quality of e-services and developed recommendations and guidelines for managing the quality of the services. However, this is not enough, as there a service provides that do not take them on board. Some of them find that the implementing the recommended quality system would be too complicated and expensive, and that the existing practice guarantees sufficient service quality. And everything looks good on the big picture – at present, agencies are under no obligation to follow common rules and the guidelines are optional. Setting mandatory quality requirements for public e-services would help improve user-friendliness.”

Background
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, there were 135 service providers in the state sector provided 1692 e-services. The state supported the development of information society with 62.6 million euros from 2007-2013. 85% or 53 million euros of this was received from European Union support. The development of information systems in the state is coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, which in 2011 opened its Department of Information Society Services Development for the development of public services and improvement of their quality.

The National Audit Office analysed the usability of public e-services on the basis of eight e-services provided by four information systems (Public Procurement Register, information system for submission of data for national statistics, public e-File and information system for spatial planning procedures).

 

Toomas Mattson
Communication Service of the National Audit Office
+372 640 0777
+372 513 4900
toomas.mattson@riigikontroll.ee
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  • Posted: 10/12/2016 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 10/23/2018 12:25 PM
  • Last Review: 10/23/2018 12:25 PM

The National Audit Office is of the opinion that the usability and quality of the e-services offered by the state is uneven.

Corbis/Scanpix Baltics

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