Survey: is best federal Web site

The federal Web portal and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's home page are the most highly rated federal Web sites, according to the seventh annual e-government analysis conducted by researchers at Brown University.

The survey (available at listed Texas and New Jersey as the best states for e-government.

" was our most highly rated site this year, and the IRS Web site was rated sixth out of 61 government Web sites," said Darrell West, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown in Providence, R.I. "There are a variety of different features that make them stand out. Those sites have a lot of online services, and they take issues of privacy and security pretty seriously. They are also generally bilingual and provide language accessibility to non-English speakers."

West and a team of researchers examined 1,564 Web sites; 1,503 state sites (or an average of 30 sites per state), plus 48 federal government sites and 13 federal court sites.

The evaluations of the Web sites were based on a number of features, including online publications, databases, foreign language content or language translation services, advertisements, user payments or fees, disability access, privacy and security statements, the number of online services available, support for credit card payments, e-mail addresses, comment forms, automatic e-mail updates, PDA accessibility, and readability level.

"What we found over the course of the project is the steady improvement in the number of online services and how seriously government agencies are treating privacy and security," West said. "There still remain design issues -- a lot of agencies have their own look, meaning that it's hard for visitors to navigate those sites. So we suggest there needs to be greater standardization of government Web sites."