Online government: a surfer’s guide

For whatever reason – cost of paper, public pressure, political tastes – governments around the world are going online. Here is a guide to some of the web sites. 

OECD members have embarked on an "e-government revolution", using new technologies to provide more convenient access to public information, improve the quality of public services and make it easier for citizens to have a say in government.

All OECD countries provide government information online, but the quantity and range varies considerably. Some OECD governments have tried to organise online services to reflect the way citizens use them and not internal bureaucratic structures. The government web portals of the United States and Norway provide a single entry point to access hundreds of public web sites.

• United States:

• Norway: (national portal)

Whereas the first step to going on line involves digitising government information, the second stage of e-government is delivering interactive services to citizens. Perhaps not surprisingly, tax collection is one of the areas in which countries have made the most progress in terms of web accessibility (see article on Chile in this section). Citizens can pay their taxes online in a number of countries, including France, Australia, Greece and Italy.

• France:

• Australia (e-tax):

• Greece (TAXISnet):

• Italy (pilot project):

E-government is changing the way that services are delivered. Sweden, for example, has proposed criteria for providing central e-government services 24 hours a day, seven days a week (24/7 services). Countries are also increasing access to e-government information and services by making the Internet available in public libraries, schools and public spaces. Portugal and Spain have both installed public kiosks for e-government services. And Internet terminals can now be found in some Paris metro stations.

• Sweden (24/7 plan):

• Spain (Citizen Attention Points):

• Portugal (INFOCID):

The third stage of e-government is increasingly interactive, allowing governments to use information technology tools to engage citizens in the development of policies, programmes and services.

E-government makes it easier than ever to collect user feedback in order to improve and tailor services. Countries are also experimenting with different forms of on-line consultation and e-democracy (electronic and online voting), although no country has yet fully installed a system allowing citizens to vote online instead of going to the polling station during national elections. Governments do however post policy documents and draft laws on web sites for comment, and are able to receive solicited and unsolicited feedback. The Netherlands and Canada are developing consultation guidelines for improving citizen participation in public decision-making.

• Netherlands: (consultation guide); (list of electronic discussions)

• Canada: (consultation on WTO)

None of these initiatives, however, will work unless governments change their internal practices to keep up with the increased pace and quality demands of providing e-government services. This includes improving internal communications and knowledge management, providing incentives for reform, and learning how to manage large-scale IT investments. Many OECD countries have published strategic plans for implementing their e-government initiatives. The UK Modernising Government White Paper, for example, includes multi-year targets for moving services online (see article in this section by Lucian Hudson). Governments also need to ensure privacy and compatibility of systems in order to provide a secure and reliable framework for electronic transactions. Finland recently passed legislation on electronic transactions that provide guidance for the whole administrative process, from filing a request to getting a decision.

• United Kingdom:

• Finland:

OECD’s public management service is working with the Italian government to organise the Third Global Forum on Governance, on 15-17 March 2001 in Naples, Italy. The forum, entitled "Fostering Democracy and Development through E-government", will look at good e-government practices as well as governance implications and ways to bridge the digital divide.

©OECD Observer No 224, January 2001

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019