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According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation by a consulting firm specialising in information technology for people with disabilities, 52 % of the Danish government websites are not fully e-accessible to people with various types of disabilities.
A total of 226 government websites were tested, including pages that are directly covered by the agreement on the mandatory open standards and a variety of other government websites. Individual pages were tested in terms of compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standard and with the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) standards.
The survey shows that almost half of the websites examined (48 %) have little or no serious accessibility problems, whereas the other half of them (52 %) include only some essential functions or are loaded with content that may not be available. Every tenth public website has been proved to be less accessible than it should.
According to the Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Ms. Charlotte Sahl-Madsen, “The results are not very satisfactory, because we expected a more positive development after the political agreement on open standards in 2008.”
There are still many public websites that are not fully IT accessible to people with various types of disabilities, according to the same survey. Therefore, ministries, regions and municipalities should be more willing to use IT solutions in order to ensure greater accessibility for all.
Furthermore, the Ministry will launch in 2011 a new eLearning tool that will provide instructions and guidance on how documents and websites can become more accessible. “The Ministry will also examine whether there is any workable international experience, we can bring into play”, says Ms. Sahl-Madsen.
Web accessibility includes, e.g. accessible design for screen reader users, access for people who cannot use a mouse and who ultimately use the keyboard alone when they need to use various functions or download content from a website, etc.
During the ministerial conference in Riga in 2006, EU member states decided to set a goal of 100 % accessible public websites by the end of 2010. However, this has been proved difficult for all countries and none of the member state is expected to reach the target before the end of 2010.
Commenting in this regard, Mr. Michael Bach Petersen, the Head of the IT and Telecom Agency, stated, “We are not alone in our challenges to ensure accessibility of public websites. Problems exist in all EU member states. We will intensify our participation in the single European work towards achieving common strategies, tools and methods to ensure that all citizens have equal access to public information and to digital public services.”
The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has already launched a series of initiatives designed to support the authorities’ efforts to develop and maintain accessible websites. These initiatives will be further evaluated and strengthened in order to maximise improvements for the benefit of the large group of citizens with disabilities. The initiatives include an information campaign, development of accessibility eLearning and other tools to support public authorities’ work towards web accessibility.
Source: eGov Monitor

Some 30% of European citizens (some 150 million people) experience some form of social exclusion, for example relating to poor health or a disability, lack of finance, low educational attainment, poor housing, or ethnic discrimination. The demand for public services from these groups can be significant, especially in times of economic uncertainty when there is significant pressure on government financial resources.
However, these groups contain people who have been least likely to access government services online, and who tend to rely on single channels when accessing services, usually involving human agents.
Socially excluded people often have limited education, technical skills, and financial means, and they can find it difficult to articulate their complex needs to service providers, or to engage with the processes of providing evidence that they qualify to receive services. Simply
directing socially excluded people to the electronic channels of eGovernment (swapping the human channel for an electronic channel) does not in itself guarantee that they will access relevant services more effectively and efficiently.
This study, launched by the European Commission, analyses the state of the art of multichannel delivery of public services throughout Europe, and the progress made towards achieving the goal to ensure that ‘no citizen is left behind’. It provides useful recommendations and identifies further actions which will be needed over the next few years.

EU ministers have committed to developing smarter online public services for citizens and businesses by 2015. The Commission has welcomed this step forward in making eGovernment more accessible, interactive and customised. At the fifth Ministerial eGovernment Conference in Malmö (Sweden) today, EU ministers outlined a joint vision and policy priorities on how this should be delivered. eGovernment is a key step towards boosting Europe’s competitiveness, benefiting from time and cost savings for citizens and businesses across Europe.
“Today’s declaration is another step in the right direction to further improve online public services for citizens and businesses. The commitment to shift from a “one-size-fits-all” to a customised approach is more likely to meet users’ needs and will open the path for more interactive and demand-driven public services in Europe”, said Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud.
Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, added: “The Malmö declaration is an encouraging signal sent from Member States towards the achievement of more effective cross-border services and the completion of the Single Market. For such services to become a reality for most citizens there is still more to be done. Achieving government savings in the current economic climate must be a priority. Better cross-border public services must be delivered even with fewer resources available so the investment made in eGovernment must be maximised. The lives of citizens and businesses can be made increasingly easier if they can benefit from efficient public services ranging from simple registration of life events such as births and residence, business services such as company registration and information or more sophisticated applications including those relating to tax, VAT or customs declarations.”
The declaration signed last night in Malmö by the EU ministers outlines a joint forwa rd-looking vision and defines policy priorities to be achieved by 2015. The key objectives that Member States together with the Commission aim to achieve in the next five years are:

  1. to empower businesses and citizens through eGovernment services designed around users’ needs, better access to information and their active involvement in the policy making process;
  2. to facilitate mobility in the single market by seamless eGovernment services for setting up business, for studying, working, residing and retiring in Europe;
  3. to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of government services by reducing the administrative burden, improving organisational processes of administrations and using ICT to improve energy efficiency in public administrations which will result in a greater contribution to a sustainable low-carbon economy.

The European Commission is already working in close cooperation with Member States to set concrete targets for the eGovernment agenda in Europe and will launch an action plan in the second half of 2010 proposing concrete measures to achieve the objectives set out in the ministerial declaration.
The empowerment of citizens and businesses is already supported today by a large number of eGovernment services. Recent figures from the eighth benchmarking report ordered by the European Commission on eGovernment in Europe, released today at the fifth ministerial conference, indicate that the quality and availability of online government services have been on the rise in Europe in the last two years: 71% of the public services measured are fully available online through portals or websites, while this was only 59% in 2007. Austria, Malta, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Slovenia are leading countries in the assessment of availability of services. Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia are making important progress but differences across Europe remain significant.
The report shows also an increased degree of interaction between service providers and users, where Europe stands at 83%, compared to 76% in 2007 (see annex for table). This year’s report looks at the availability of eProcurement, which aims at improving public procurement. It is now at around 60% in the EU, still far from the 100% target for 2010 set by the i2010 eGovernment action plan.
eGovernment Ministerial Declaration – full text on eGovernment website.