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Internet enables smarter government services

Updated: Aug 24,2016 7:28 AM Daily

A man surnamed Chen, of Beilun district in East China’s Ningbo city, was surprised to receive a message from the local government’s official website.

Several days ago, he submitted a complaint on the website about the disorderly parking by some container trucks in the city’s downtown, which inconvenienced some citizens. The government leaders responded immediately and took measures to solve the problem, Economic Daily reported.

Chen’s story is a symbol of the Chinese government’s effort to integrate the internet and government services.

Since 2015 on, the State Council has issued several policies urging authorities to update official websites, building a unified online service platform, publicizing information quickly and improving collaboration among different departments and regions.

In 2016, it began a regular inspection of government websites around the country. Inspection items included the updating speed and quality of information, interaction with users and services. A recent inspection from the second quarter revealed that 85 percent of websites were up to standard.

In addition, a management mechanism has been formed for official websites. Government executive office is accountable for its website, and the General Office of the State Council is responsible for the supervision of all government websites in China.

According to the official plan, government websites should not only serve as an information source, but also a smart platform integrating information, data and services.

Inspection results from the second quarter of 2016 also showed that 77.7 percent of websites that failed belong to county governments or below.

Zhang Nan, an assistant professor at Tsinghua University, told Economic Daily that some local authorities do not have enough staff or money to run a website that keeps up with the internet era. “The budget of some websites is less than 20,000 yuan ($3,011) a year,” he said.

The State Council suggested that local authorities that cannot afford to maintain their own official websites should shut them down and transfer the operation to upper levels.

“It is a trend that government websites should be fewer and more comprehensive,” said Economic Daily. They provide more quality information and services and are more secure than previously.

In East China’s Anhui province, 1,938 websites have been shut down so far, most of which belong to local authorities. “It costs less and is easier to manage,” said an information official in Huangshan, a city in Anhui.

Apart from fewer websites and higher quality, the collaboration of information and services among different websites is also an important factor in the construction of a smarter government.

On the one hand, local government websites are asked to reprint crucial information from the central government in a timely manner.

Recent inspections found that over 80 percent of official websites can reprint crucial information from the official website of the State Council within 24 hours.

It is important to enhance communication between the government and the public, said Huang Huang, an assistant professor at Peking University.

On the other hand, according to the plan, official websites in different regions and departments are urged to build a unified platform to share data and services, in order to enhance convenience for the public.

For example, the website of the Public Security Bureau of Anhui province has integrated the services of its subordinate agencies, enabling citizens to do much of their paperwork online, including resident administration, entry and exit and driver's license issues.

Experts said that in order to enhance coordination, a universal standard on technology and management among official websites should be set up, and authorities should open more information to the public as well as to other departments and regions.

Running an official website is not just updating pages, but should be used as a chance to build a smarter and more modern government, an effort to adjust to a rapidly changing internet era.