Accessibility, Usability, and Functionality in T-Government Services

Accessibility, Usability, and Functionality in T-Government Services

Margherita Pagani (Bocconi University, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch001
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Abstract

The transition process from analog to digital system, above all in the broadcasting field, and the development of Third Generation standards in mobile communications offer an increasing number of value-added services: the incumbent actors (i.e., local and central administrations, local health structures and hospitals, dealers of public services) have the opportunity to provide e-services to citizens by exploiting the new technologies (digital television, mobile). The centrality of technology for citizens is a central issue in the Information Society policy, at a local, regional, national, European, and global level. In Europe, the action plan called “eEurope 2005”1 aims to increase productivity, better public services, and above all guarantee to the whole community the possibility to participate in a global information society, promoting new offers based on broadband and multiplatform infrastructures. Therefore, new devices, such as digital television and mobile systems, are becoming innovative and complementary solutions to the PC. As service providers must guarantee an adequate interface to the citizen, it is also important to identify the critical variables influencing the design of the new t-government services. We explore in this chapter accessibility, usability, and functionality of the systems as the key drivers to build a pervasive offer.
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Background

The term e-government refers to the group of techniques for the use of methods and tools of an ICT world, aimed to make easier the relationship between the public administration and the citizen (Kannabiran, 2005; Koh, Ryan, & Prybutok, 2005; Marasso, 2003; Norris, Fletcher, & Holden, 2001; Northrup & Thorson, 2003).

E-government is the delivery of online government services, which provides the opportunity to increase citizen access to government, reduce government bureaucracy, increase citizen participation in democracy, and enhance agency responsiveness to citizens’ needs.

Previous studies (Bruno, 2002; Gronlund, 2001; Marasso, 2003; Norris & Moon, 2005; Traunmuller & Lenk, 2002) consider the PC as the main device to access e-government services, and few researchers in the literature consider digital TV and mobile as new devices to provide e-government services. The geographical, demographic, social, and cultural gap, associated with the limited skills and knowledge to manipulate the PC, bring to the awareness that the network will be a precious virtual place of acquisition and exchange of information, but not so pervasive as mobile systems and television.

The term t-government refers to the whole range of services characterized by a social and ethic mission, transmitted through digital television (satellite, terrestrial, cable, ADSL) and provided by the Public Administration. The aim is to reduce the distance between government and citizens and make easier the efficiency and efficacy of public administration activities (CNIPA, 2004).

E-government and t-government differ because of the media used to vehicle the value-added service. T-government, however, has the advantage to address to all the people far from the knowledge and capabilities that the computer requires. In Europe, Italy, the UK, and the Scandinavian countries were the first countries to promote the use of t-government.

The main areas of application for t-government services are:

  • Access to the existing public information

  • Online forms

  • Online services directed to the citizens (education, mobility, health, postal services)

The purpose of this chapter is to identify the critical variables influencing the design of the new t-government services.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Accessibility: The possibility given by television to guarantee informative content, interaction ways, and navigation processes adequate to any user, no matter his or her capabilities and skills, hardware, and software configuration. In particular, accessibility addresses to people with disabilities (physical and intellectual), who are traditionally excluded by the Information Society.

T-Government: An evolution of e-government applied to digital television (satellite, terrestrial, cable, ADSL); this new device allows citizens to have access to the services offered by Public Administration using the common television present in any house. It is based on a broadcast infrastructure, compatible to European standards of Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB), and on an application infrastructure, compatible to Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) standard. The potential areas of application are personal data, local taxation, consumptions, telegrams and postal documents, health, mobility, Social Security, education, and work.

Electronic Government (e-Government): The delivery of online government services, which provides the opportunity to increase citizen access to government, reduce government bureaucracy, increase citizen participation in democracy, and enhance agency responsiveness to citizens’ needs.

Usability: The delivery mechanism must be straightforward to use with minimum effort required. Some general rules to guide these principles are maintain a simple design, reducing the number of tables and frames; summarize the key contents on the display; reduce the pages to an adequate number to vehicle the information to the user; make the navigation easy and the remote-control ergonomic; guarantee an intuitive and simple layout; make the visual and graphics elements have no impact on the timing of downloading; create indexes and supports to the navigation that contribute to fasten the process of searching.

Functionality: The efficacy of the technical realization of the sites, the average time to download the pages, and the number of errors in html language. The main attributes of an adequate technical functionality are the speed of download, the timeliness of the system, the content update, and the security of the data transmission (integrity, privacy).

Digital Gap: The digital gap and exclusion in the use of the new media technologies. The reasons of this difference can be due to geographical, economic, cultural, cognitive, or generational gap, but in any situation the result is the same: Internet remains a precious way of acquiring and exchanging information, but not so pervasive as mobile and televisions, which can consequently contribute to reduce the gap.

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