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Utah improves slightly on its Web site ranking

E-government rates No. 16 for data and services

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WASHINGTON — While Utah portrays itself as a high-tech leader, its state government ranks as a mediocre 16th most-friendly to Internet surfers among the 50 states, a new study says.

That is an improvement from being tied for 21st last year. But Indiana — which was tied with Utah at No. 21 — moved all the way up to No. 1 in rankings by Brown University's Taubman Center for Public Policy.

"It was surprising and encouraging to see how rapidly the e-government landscape is changing and how much an individual state or agency can improve in a relatively short time," said Darrell M. West, center director.

"In the space of a year, states like Indiana, Tennessee, Maine, Arkansas and Montana have risen past 20 or more states in terms of the quality and variety of online services they provide. States that merely maintained their status quo lost ground in the rankings. The bar is constantly moving higher," he said.

Out of a possible 100 points in rankings, the study gave Utah a score of 42.6 — meaning less than half the "dream" services and information that study designers would like to see are offered by Utah's state government Web sites.

Indiana had the highest rating among states at 52.3. Wyoming was lowest at 31.5. Several federal agencies also were rated. The highest was the Food and Drug Administration at 87 and the lowest were several appeals courts (the lowest was the 11th Circuit at 24).

The study said that 94 percent of Utah's Web sites offer agency phone numbers; 91 percent offer addresses; 75 percent offer publications online; 59 percent were searchable; 28 percent offer online databases; 75 percent have links to related sites; 3 percent offer audio files; 9 percent offer video files; and 3 percent offer foreign language files.

It said only 25 percent of the state's Web sites offer services that are "fully executable" online — meaning offering printable forms that must be mailed in do not count.

The most common such services available nationwide were the ability to file tax forms online; order publications online; file complaints; register or renew vehicle registrations; and order hunting licenses.

The study said many state government Web sites are limited in allowing online services because they do not accept "electronic signatures" or credit cards. It said only 3 percent of Utah state government sites accepted them.

The study also found that government agencies nationwide are becoming slower to respond to online inquiries.

Researchers who sent requests to e-mail addresses listed at Web sites found that only 80 percent brought responses, down from 91 percent last year.

Also, only 52 percent of such agencies responded within a day, down from 73 percent last year. Researchers said 11 percent of responses took five days or more.

E-MAIL: lee@desnews.com