Gov't website transparency increases trust in government

The longstanding approach to quantifying transparency has been, "well let's measure how much data they put out there," said Larry Freed, ForeSee Results' president and chief executive officer. "To me, that's not measuring transparency. That may be measuring confusion."

Freed opted instead to survey citizens on their reactions to government Web sites, using the model of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, for which ForeSee Results also collects data.

If citizens find e-government transparent, they are more likely to return to the site, recommend it, and use it instead of a more costly channel," the study found. "They even express more trust in the government agency."

Citizens who believe a site is highly transparent are 46 percent more likely to trust the overall government, 49 percent more likely to use the site as a primary resource and 37 percent more likely to return to the site, according to the study.

"We have always assumed that greater transparency [and] more openness in government would link to greater satisfaction and higher trust in government," said Dave McClure, GSA's associate administrator for its Office of Citizen Services and Communications, who also was briefed on the results. "What this study does is help confirm that."

McClure also noted that a site's perceived transparency can save the government money by encouraging citizens to access services online, rather than through less efficient channels. He said all agencies should consider the value of measuring online transparency, but stopped short of saying such efforts should be mandatory.

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