Strengthening Transparency, Communication and Citizen Participation Through Improvement of Websites of Local Self-Governments

May 15, 2020

In the course of March and April 2020, USAID Government Accountability Initiative (GAI) performed its second quality assessment of websites of its partner local self-governments (LSGs). The baseline website assessment that included the recommendations for improvement for the first group consisting of seven cities and municipalities was conducted last year using the same methodology, while this year’s initial assessment was conducted for another six municipalities and cities that joined the project in November 2019. GAI methodology for website quality assessment is based on the legislative and e-government requirements, good practices in terms of accessibility, structure and website content and the model of LSG website that GAI developed in 2019.

This year’s assessment proved that most LSGs implemented the recommendations provided to them last year and made progress and better overall result, in other words, improved the design, content, structure and technical performance of their websites. The development is best seen in the part relating to website content and the availability and updating of information and documents. The best result this year and the greatest progress compared to the last year’s assessment is achieved by the city of Sombor, having implemented a lot of recommendations based on the last year’s assessment.

While progress is seen in most of the areas, this year’s assessment also showed the decline for almost all assessed cities and municipalities in the part relating to e-services, which comes as the consequence of uploading of the new e-government portal and losing of a number of services that cities and municipalities had in place by 2019. This score and also the scores for other indicators that target design, graphic solutions, language, script, navigation or technologies that assist persons with disabilities to access the content, indicate that improvement of websites of cities and municipalities is a continuous process that should be keeping up with the fast-paced development of information technology, including the new requirements by the community that is increasingly present in the virtual space. GAI project will therefore maintain intensive cooperation with its partners in creating better local websites.

Websites of cities and municipalities are indeed one of the most relevant tools for ensuring transparency in the functioning of local administrations, availability of data, documents and information of public importance. Additionally, the websites provide latest and timely information to the public on local administration work and events in the local community. Presence of cities and municipalities in an on-line environment offers great opportunities for communication with citizens and enables citizen participation in decision-making through online polls, consultations, virtual public debates and fora for exchange of ideas, opinions and suggestions. Finally, good websites provide on-line delivery of local services, which significantly contributes to the efficiency and quality of these services. For all of this, improving the structure and the content of local websites has been in the spotlight of GAI project from the very beginning and will be further pursued throughout the entire project.

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