EVALUATION OF THE WEBSITE OF THE ROYAL BOROUGH OF KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA

Summary:                 Report the outcome of an evaluation of the website of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea assessing how it communicates with its users and outlines the action plan to address areas of improvement

The report focuses on the degree to which the website improves services, meets citizen’s needs, provide better access to services and increases social inclusion. It also looks how the Borough is using the website to engage and consult citizens and stakeholders.

Conclusions:           Overall the evaluation concludes that the Borough is making good progress in many areas but there is plenty of scope for improvement.

Recommendations:

-Within 1 month time (January 2009) plan on outcomes and key deliverables for users through a new strategic framework in consultation with relevant stakeholders to use the web site to target social exclusion.

-Undertake focused qualitative consultation with users, especially with minority and disadvantaged groups, about the improvements required to the website and their expectations, and develop a strategy focusing on this vulnerable group.

– Promptly put in place effective arrangements to ensure that the WebPages are updated regularly, and make the technical changes outlined in this report to deliver outcomes.

Rodolfo Gutierrez S    


1.  Introduction

As part of the programme to improve responsiveness to users the Local Borough has commissioned an external Management consultant who will be assessing its website assesing how it communicates with its users, in particular, it will consider the quality and effectiveness of this tool aiming to provide the Borough with sufficient information to make an informed judgement about its performance, to document lessons learned and to provide practical recommendations for follow-up action. The evaluation was carried out between mid-October and November 2008. The website is of course part of a bigger picture and one element of a set of activities in partnership between Local and Central government to improve public services. This intervention fits clearly in to their overall objectives and agenda, therefore the results or findings are also intending to contribute to the creation of new strategies adopted by the Borough as well as serve as a lesson to many other public service institutions. After the claimed successful experience of e-government[1], recently, at local level, the government has proposed different strategies and plans such as “unlocking talents”, thus giving more power to people over local decisions and services[2]. From April 2009 local authorities will be under a statutory duty to inform, consult and involve local people in the running of local services[3]. This also has chronological antecedents especially the Citizen’s Charter initiative, launched in 1991, followed in 1999 by the Modernising white paper which asked to increase the responsiveness of public services to make them meet the needs of citizens rather than the convenience[4] of service providers. The Government has outlined its vision for public service “transformation”, much of which requires the use of information technology to respond more effectively to service users[5] as well as empower them. Responding to the above challenges the Borough implemented its e-government programme successfully and leaving as a legacy this website. Specific questions being asked in this evaluation is to what extent the website that has been built under certain standards of quality, particularly following e-government guidelines, and some previous consultation with the local community by the Borough, have contributed to the achievement of the outcomes (improve access to services, improve consultation and engagement, increased social inclusion) and to what extent or how far outputs (provision of services level) have contributed to achieve the outcomes that it was intended to achieve (effectiveness). For the analysis of effectiveness and quality it was necessary to build different criteria. The evaluation of quality include the criteria of accessibility, diversity and informational quality, and the evaluation of effectiveness includes the criteria of empowerment and efficiency, this criteria are justified, since unmistakably reflect the outcomes that this particular intervention is supposed to achieve. It has also included specific assessment of the benefits accruing to target groups, including identified vulnerable groups such as the elderly, disabled, and focusing overall on the ethical dimensions in the context of diversity. This evidence will be very valuable to the Borough when assessing the objectives of service provision in future evaluations and with regard to other criteria such as efficiency, equity, choice, accountability and best value.

 2 Evidence considered

In the course of this evaluation evidence was taken from different sources, including secondary and quantitative data from Local and Central Government (House of Commons, Public Administration select committee) and Audit Commission.  Evidence was also analysed from examination of documents and plans from the Royal Borough relating to user engagement including implementing electronic government statement and return (IEG3,4,5,6) and public service user groups.

3.     Analysis

3.1.      Quality (Three criteria)

3.1.1   ACCESSIBILITY (Criteria 1)

3.1.1.1            Disability

13.6% of people living in Kensington and Chelsea stated that they had a limiting long-term illness, disability or infirmity in the Census 2001. Although the website mention the possibility of effective arrangements to ensure that hearing impaired and disabled people are not excluded, this can only be done through contacting the council via the online form. Unfortunately, there is not special software within the website adapted to the needs of this type of user. In contrast, the Borough of Barnet has software called Browsealoud that offer the opportunity to listen the content of the website rather than reading it, while other council websites offer the possibility of changing the colour of the background and text of the site.

3.1.1.2            Languages

The text in the website is not available online in more languages despite the six most prevalent community languages in the borough are currently Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Farsi and Somali. The council is using only professional and accredited interpreters, except in special circumstances. These services are only provided on request. A draft consultation of translation and interpretation services policy found in the web does not mention the need to include this in the website in the near future.

3.1.1.3            Literacy level of text

Although there is an attempt to present the site with simple text and the most familiar words, some documents that are found in the consultation reports present difficult language accessible to certain readers familiar with the topic. The website of the Borough of Barnet, for instance present a Multikulti that allows accessible information in areas such as debt, employment, education, immigration, racism and discrimination.

3.1.2.              DIVERSITY (Criteria 2)

There are some problems with multicultural issues and diversity. The site does not appear to be to reflect cultural or ethnic group inclusion despite over 21% of residents belong to a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) group, while 50% of residents are White British, and a further 28% being from other ethnic groups (European, American, and Middle Eastern descent/). It does not reflect diversity in conveying mainstream/general content. This might create some exclusion in since the 2001 Census shows that compared with residents from White Ethnic groups, residents from Black minority groups are more likely to have no qualifications – 17.3% do not have qualifications, compared with 11.9% of white residents. They are more likely also to claim Jobseeker allowance and to report health “not good”. The site does not seem to indicate participation among users through intercultural interactive or collaborative opportunities. Although the site presents a feedback option it does not stimulate critical examination or divergent perspectives through interactive forums. A website build around their needs will help to reduce social exclusion.

 3.1.3   INFORMATIONAL QUALITY (Criteria 3)

There is no evidence whether the information is current or has been updated in the past days. The site does not include a notation on the bottom of the page stating when information was placed online or updated.

 

3.2       Effectiveness (Two criteria)

3.2.1   EMPOWERNMENT (Criteria 4)

The site still continue offering the programmes set by e-government, such as online access to services for parents, publishing information, online reports  (minutes, agendas, consultations, procurement as well as the implementation and tracking of some services), that allow the possibility of empowering different stakeholders and citizen participation.  A-Z links has boost the website, allowing some accessibility, however, the site does not include links directly for all the relevant stakeholders, engaging them from the first encounter (Main page). Although the site presents a link “at your service”, unfortunately, it does not have other options such as the one offered by Croydon and Islington Council allowing the user from the first contact with the web to identify himself according to their characteristics and according to their needs, in other words, targeted services. The website should also target directly the target group or stakeholder  with links such as i.e. Services for Parents, Business, Over 60s, Young People, People with disabilities. with the information necessary.

3.2.2 EFFICIENCY (Services) (Criteria 5)

It was perceived a rise in online payments. According to recent statistics, it appears that Council tax payment online has increased from a number of 6.775 in the financial year April to march 2004-2005 to 17,952 in the period of 2007-2008. That is equivalent to total payments of £1,264,481.85 for the period 2004-05 to 3,420,332,339 for the period 2007-08. Parking payments has also increased from 2.599 transactions to 13.017 and from payments of £ 195,590 to £1,040,200 in the same period.

4. Conclusion

Overall the evaluation concluded that there has been some progress in some areas, for example:

–       Good performance has been sustained on access to services when compared to the last report in 2006 of the e-government programme that closed in 2006(IEG6). There is a willingness to engage citizens to make further improvements.

–       Access to services has been made much easier; links that include other stakeholders enable future partnerships. This might be used to improve accessibility.

–       Better accessibility to electronic documents has helped to improve performance and clearly, efficiency in revenue and benefits. This has enabled for instance quicker processing of payments in some services.

–       The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea exhibits a strong corporate commitment to the use of consultation. The website has been used to improve this area. Committee reports and minutes are available online, consultation on some key issues and policy documents are invited through the website

–       The website provide some useful information for people to get access to transport there are direct links also to another departments through the A-Z directory

Area that need to be improved:

-Fully effective use is not being made of the website to improve consultation and increase engagement, there is not evidence that the consultation page is updated regularly, in addition to it, key documents needed by the public are not online.

-While some progress has been made in engaging different stakeholders, the council is not strategically using fully its website as a mean to promote social inclusion in the Borough by strengthening accessibility in terms of disability, language and literacy level. The council need to explore new ways of using this channel to help to reduce social exclusion and establish a strong focus on diversity issues with clear aims.

5. Recommendations for future action

-Within 1 month time (January   2009) plan on outcomes and key deliverables for users through a new strategic framework in consultation with relevant stakeholders to use the web site to target social exclusion.

-Undertake focused qualitative consultation with users, especially with minority and disadvantaged groups, about the improvements required to the website and their expectations, and develop a strategy focusing on this vulnerable group.

– Promptly put in place effective arrangements to ensure that the WebPages are updated regularly, and make the technical changes outlined in this report to deliver outcomes.

6. Bibliography

 

Department for Communities and Local Government, Local e-government (Internet) available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/localgovernment/efficiencybetter/localegovernment/ (Accesed on 28th October)

Department for Communities and Local Government, Unlocking the talents of our communities (Internet) available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/unlockingtalent  (Accesed on 15th November)

Gorsky P (1999) Toward a Multicultural Approach for Evaluating Educational Web Sites (Internet) Available at: http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/net/comps/eval.html (Accessed on 28th November)

House of Commons. Public Administration and Select Committee. User involvement in public services. Sixth report of Session 2007-08 HC410 May 2008

Lazaros W, et al (2003) The Children’s Partnership’s Guidelines for Content Creation and Evaluation: Version 1.0. (Internet) Available at: http://www.contentbank.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home3&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=4679 (Accessed on 12th November 2008)

London Borough of Barnet. 2008 (Internet) Available at: http://www.barnet.gov.uk/ Accessed on 1 November)

Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, Section 138 in House of Commons. Public Administration and Select Committee. User involvement in public services. Sixth report of Session 2007-08 HC410 May 2008

Public Administration Select Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2004-05, Choice, Voice and Public Services, HC 49 I p.7 par 8

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 2008. available at www.rbkc.org.uk

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 2002. Implementing Electronic Government Statement (Internet). Available from: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/YourCouncil/eGovernment/ieg2002.pdf (Accessed on 15th October 2008) 

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 2002. Implementing Electronic Government Return (Internet). Available from: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/YourCouncil/eGovernment/ieg2003.pdf  (Accessed on 17th October 2008)

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 2004. Implementing Electronic Government Return (Internet). Available from: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/YourCouncil/eGovernment/ieg2004.pdf   (Accessed on 17th October 2008)

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 2005. Implementing Electronic Government Return Mid Term (Internet). Available from: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/YourCouncil/eGovernment/ieg2005.pdf  (Accessed on 17th October 2008)

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 2005. Implementing Electronic Government Return (Internet). Available from: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/YourCouncil/eGovernment/IEG_5_Statement.pdf    (Accessed on 17th October 2008)

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 2006. Implementing Electronic Government Return (Internet). Available from: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/YourCouncil/eGovernment/ieg2006.pdf  (Accessed on 17th October 2008)

Smith, Alastair G.(1997).  “Testing the Surf: Criteria for Evaluating Internet Information Resources.” The Public-Access Computer Systems Review 8, no. 3

 


[1] Department for Communities and Local Government, local e-government

[2] Department for Communities and local Government, Unlocking the Talent of Our Communities, March 2008

[3] Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, Section 138

[4] Public Administration Select Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2004-05, Choice, Voice and Public Services, HC 49 I p.7 par 8

[5] House of Commons. Public Administration and Select Committee. User involvement in public services. Sixth report of Session 2007-08 HC410 May 2008

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s