Benchmarking National Communications Regulatory Authority websites 2010
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This paper provides an executive overview of the communications sector’s National Regulatory Authorities’ (NRAs’) website benchmark results for Africa in 2010, which were evaluated between March and April 2010. The analysis ranks the online component of information provision and facilitation of regulatory processes. This study follows previous regional surveys conducted in 2008 (Kerretts-Makau, 2009) and in 2004-05 (Mahan, 2004), which examined the extent to which regulators were using websites to inform and communicate with the public – including consumers and citizens, the private sector, media actors and researchers and other governmental and non-governmental organizations. The benchmarking assessment documents the incidence of different aspects that are important for a regulator’s web presence across the categories of basic information and responsiveness, factual information about the national telecom sector, consumer and citizen information including universal service and complaints procedures, business related information and forms, and information about the regulator and regulatory processes. The ranking of the elements is derived from the 2001 UN “Benchmarking E-government” report categories. Each ranking examined the information offered in terms of its being up-to-date and facilitating inclusive and informed regulatory processes. The ranking was based on qualitative evidence, but subjectivity was reduced by using the following defined categories rather than simply relying on perceptions. 1. Emerging: Only basic and largely static information is available. 2. Enhanced: Content and information is updated regularly, and information is available not only in its original format (such as acts and legislation) but is also explained and digested. 3. Interactive: Users can download forms, contact officials and make requests. Available information has further value added, such as being hyper-linked to relevant legislation. 4. Transactional: Users can submit forms online – for example to request information, or to submit a request for a license form. The sub-categories were classi!ed with each thematic element assigned a value from one to four based on the stages described above, with each category contributing to a !nal score. It should be noted that a value of zero (0) was used to indicate the lack of information or a service. As shall be seen throughout the Africa analysis !ndings, countries that had no data within a given category were ranked with a zero. Intermediate scores were also used to provide a more precise assessment. For example, if information was available but not completely up to date and lacked su"cient explanation it was recorded as a score of 1.5. Benchmarking implies that comparisons are undertaken between similar websites to identify good practices and to engender a sharing of strategies by which the functional pro!le of the websites may be enhanced, and informed regulatory processes may be facilitated. Because this is a rapidly evolving area, the primary focus of this methodology and this paper is the current state of the art, rather than progress over time. However, although the subcategories may be altered from one evaluation year to the next, the overall framework does allow individual regulatory agencies to access the evolution of their websites. A country’s inclusion into the assessment was contingent on the country having an independent authority1 and the authority having a functioning website. Out of a total of 54 countries in Africa, 30 had regulatory institutions that could be classi!ed as independent with websites, and 24 did not have websites and/or had websites that were not working as at April 8th 2010 and or were merged with the ministries. The benchmarking results show marked di#erences across countries and regions. While ranking per se was not the major focus of the analysis, it is tempting to rank the countries in terms of their overall achievement. Egypt received the highest score and performed well across all categories. Nigeria, Mauritius, Kenya and South Africa were ranked in the top !ve. Following closely are Uganda, Algeria, Senegal and Tanzania. The top ten NRAs were considered to have had adequate content in support of users being informed and being able to participate in regulatory processes. Towards Evidence-based ICT Policy and Regulation 1 1 The term independent is used loosely here to refer to an institution mandated as the regulator of the sector not also functioning in the dual role of a !xed mobile operator or mobile operator or ministry Overall, the total African regional average was low, with a benchmark of between one and two, indicating that national regulatory authority websites hover between static and emerging levels of information provision. Nonetheless, it is not necessarily the case that a value of four is the desirable value for a particular area of information provision. In some instances clear and up-to-date information that is well explained may be preferable to a complicated interactive site. In the same vein, use of Web 2.0 tools have not been speci!cally included in the assessment. However, this NRA survey ranks information provision in terms of increased interactivity and functionality, and hence websites with higher scores such as evidenced by countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt and Tunisia have more likely embraced Web 2.0 philosophies of interconnectedness and sharing of information, if not the actual tools themselves. In this regard, !ndings indicate that there is room for development of best practise around using Web 2.0 technologies on regulatory websites. Interactivity on NRA websites is usually centred around forms to request information or to submit requests, comments, etc. and hyperlinking within the site. The full data analysis is provided in another report. The following analysis provides a summarised overview of the performance of African regulatory websites within the benchmarking criteria. It should be noted that this analysis does not judge websites by their look and feel, rather the main aim of the analysis focuses on revealing best practise of what NRAs are doing within their websites. The analysis thus reveals the type of content provided and the ease of using or accessing the requisite information. Ranking, per se, is thus only a by-product of the exercise. It is hoped that this study will provide African regulators with an insight into what their users will most likely be looking for when searching through their websites. The study also highlights best practices that can be replicated.
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