Measuring the Efficiency of Government Portals

About a decade ago, researchers began to study the performance of e-government portals in order to identify best practices. Studies have also focused on identifying the factors that influence the information quality these portals offer to the public. Most of these studies consider only portal outputs, but ignore the resources (or inputs) used to develop and maintain the portal. This is a problem, because when you analyze only the outputs of a system you are only seeing half of the performance picture. In other words, you are only measuring effectiveness and ignoring efficiency. In an era of ever-tightening government budgets, we simply cannot afford to ignore efficiency in government services. Naturally then the question is: how do you measure the efficiency of e-government portals?

The answer lies is a little known type of analysis called Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA). Once viewed as tool only for serious economists, DEA has experienced an incredible surge in popularity in measuring the efficiency of systems, business units, and processes across dozens of business sectors. In fact, a quick search of Google Scholar yields thousands of published applications of DEA for this very purpose. While the details of DEA are beyond the scope of any blog post, I can provide you with the main idea of DEA and the challenges of trying to measure efficiency without it.

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