Netizens unhappy with poor service on govt sites

By Qian Yanfeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-18 09:31
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Internet users say finding useful information hard

SHANGHAI - Nearly 80 percent of the country's Internet users are not satisfied with the performance of Chinese government websites, an online survey has found.

The survey of 450,000 netizens, released by China Software Testing Center on Thursday, cast a shadow over the quality of e-governance in China, which boasts the world's largest Internet population of more than 400 million users.

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The survey is based on a sample of 885 government websites, including 73 ministerial, 32 provincial, and 780 city, district and county level.

More than 78 percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied with government websites that are just image-building projects where visitors can hardly find useful information or practical solutions to problems.

Most people said they have difficulty accessing useful information that ordinary people care about, including education, social security, housing, medical care and employment.

For example, it is difficult for Web users to find updated information on food safety, social security benefits and job vacancies available.

There is also lack of transparency, for instance, in the application and allocation of government-subsidized apartments, according to the survey.

The result also showed that nearly 67 percent of government websites fail to make public their budgets.

In an era when interaction between the government and Web users has become increasingly important, many respondents said government Web pages also need to promote two-way exchanges and the public and policymakers should hold more online chats.

The Ministry of Commerce topped the list of ministerial websites in terms of its level of satisfaction. The survey also found governments in relatively more prosperous eastern coastal areas outdo their counterparts in less developed regions in the satisfactory level of their websites.

"Although many government websites now offer online inquiry services, when we post our questions, it's very likely we'll be directed to another government department and end up nowhere," said Chen Tianli, from Shanghai.

"China's e-governance only started a few years ago so there is a long way to go before it could become satisfactory," said Peng Xizhe, director of the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University.

"As the establishment of a service-oriented e-government network becomes all the more important in a wired era, we will see greater transparency and efficiency in government websites," he said.

"In the process, the government does need to change from its traditional role as a regulator to a service provider," he added.