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Israel

Unified Website for Government Offices (IL0017)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Israel Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: E-Government unit, Government ICT Authority, Prime Minister's Office

Support Institution(s): Digital Israel Bureau, Government offices and auxiliary units. The Public

Policy Areas

Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Israel End-of-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Currently in Israel there are many government websites. Various countries around the world have worked to unify government websites, a step that will improve the accessibility of information and services to citizens in an optimal manner, while at the same time leading to considerable savings. The mainc objective is to make government information and services more accessible through a unified government website. Ambition - To increase the use and conducting of online actions on government websites. Challenges - Transparency, accountability

IRM Midterm Status Summary

Commitment 4. Establishing a Unified Website for Government Offices

Commitment TextTo establish a unified website for government offices, provide a complete user experience and standardized service.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Currently in Israel there are many government websites. Various countries around the world have worked to unify government websites, a step that will improve the accessibility of information and services to citizens in an optimal manner, while at the same time leading to considerable savings.

Main Objective: To make government information and services more accessible through a unified government website

Milestones:

4.1To formulate a plan to establish the website and get the public to participate

4.2 To upload a preliminary version of the unified website

Responsible institution: E-Government unit, Government ICT Authority, Prime Minister's Office

Supporting institution(s): Digital Israel Bureau, Government offices and auxiliary units

Start dateJanuary 1, 2015 End dateJune 1, 2016

Context and objectives:

This commitment aims to improve the level and development of government services to the public. Previously, Israeli ministries published information online and provided services through their websites without meeting common standards for service delivery. Many of those websites were incompatible with popular web browsers and not regularly updated. According to the Quality of Government Services Index, government services provided online received a ranking of 67 out of 100, the lowest rank of all forms of government services for 2014.  https://www.gov.il/exfiles/dochtikshuv/2015/index.html#567-566/z.  

This commitment is relevant for access to information in Israel. The new website will eliminate practical and technical issues that previously limited free access to information. However, a new government’s website by itself does not ensure such increased access.

The commitment includes milestones with verifiable yet vague language. The first proposed activity consists only of the formation of a plan without any details on its execution or implementation. The second milestone is more specific, but still far from clear as to what the website will include.

If fully implemented, this commitment will be an incremental but positive step in improving public service provision in Israel. It will depend, however, on the specific content of the website and its usage by the citizens. The resulting website usage will be assessed in the end-of-term report.

Completion

Both of the commitment’s milestones were completed during the first year of implementation. The “preliminary version” of the unified website became available on March 2016.  https://goo.gl/Fqx4Hw. The IRM researchers verified the website’s availability on 30 Jun. 2016.  The site is now available in Hebrew with one feature of the site also available in English. www.gov.il.  While more than a 'preliminary version' of the unified website was available by the commitment's end date, the IRM researchers consider the website’s use to be limited.  Two ministries joined the site upon its March 2016 launch and thirteen more ministries were scheduled to join in 2016. However, according to a review of the website on 19 November 2016, only six more ministries and agencies (out of a total 55) had joined so far. See: https://www.gov.il/he/departments.  The draft of government interim self-assessment report discusses difficulties convincing ministries to join the website. In an interview with the researchers, government officials said that many ministries are accustomed to creating their own websites around their respective organisational structures; the ministries are having difficulty with the conceptual shift required to join the unified website. In this regard, joining a new site presents a shift in traditional perspectives toward a website based on citizens' needs and expectations.  

Next Steps

The IRM researchers recommend that this commitment is not taken forward into future OGP action plans. The 'gov.il' website is not specifically targeted at opening up government. It can indeed be used for that purpose, but if that is the government's choice, the specific actions carried out within the site that promote openness should appear as 'stand alone' commitments. A government website can be used to make government services more accessible (such as offering online forms to be filled by citizens instead of physically visiting offices of government agencies), it can be used for propaganda matters (for instance online publication of press releases), it can be used for many other purposes which are not necessarily related to OGP values. Therefore overall improvements to the government website should not appear as a commitment in an action plan.

However, if the government decides to continue this initiative, the IRM researchers recommend that it includes clear specific language that includes: 

  • How the use of the site will improve access to government datasets;
  • What new opportunities will be available for public participation in government decision-making through the website;
  • A clear objective and a list of the desired content; and
  • New tools for public participation so citizens might engage with the website.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

4. Establishing a Unified Website for Government Offices

Commitment Text:

To establish a unified website for government offices, provide a complete user experience and standardized service.

Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: Currently in Israel there are many government websites. Various countries around the world have worked to unify government websites, a step that will improve the accessibility of information and services to citizens in an optimal manner, while at the same time leading to considerable savings.

Main Objective: To make government information and services more accessible through a unified government website

Milestones:

4.1. To formulate a plan to establish the website and get the public to participate

4.2. To upload a preliminary version of the unified website

Responsible institutions: E-Government Unit, Government ICT Authority, Prime Minister's Office

Supporting institutions: Digital Israel Bureau, Government offices and auxiliary units

Start date: 1 January 2015

End date: 1 June 2016

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to solve problems with the quality of online government services to the public, and to address the fact that different ministries had different online platforms to provide services, with some outdated and others incompatible with popular browsers. To solve these problems, the commitment set out to create a unified government website in order to: 1) meet common standards for service delivery, including compatibility with popular web browsers, regular updates, and accessibility standards, and 2) indirectly make information more accessible as already-open information would be available without practical and technical difficulties that were characteristic of many government websites.

Status

Midterm: Complete

As reported in the IRM midterm report, both of the commitment's milestones were fully implemented during the first year of the action plan, though this was largely due to their vague and limited reach (anticipating only the 'formulation of a plan' and a 'preliminary version' of the site). Israel, IRM Midterm Report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Israel_MidTerm-Progress_2015-2017_ENG.pdf, pg. 34. The IRM midterm report found that many ministries find the conceptual shift required to join the unified website difficult and hence avoided joining, opting to remain with their own separate website. For more information, see the IRM midterm report. Ibid, pg. 34.

Substantial activities in the focus of the commitment continued to be promoted and developed during the second year of the action plan cycle. More government ministries have joined the unified website, and the website offers more information from those ministries already part of it. However, only nine of the 25 government ministries and 15 of 44 other government agencies expected to join the website, or have joined at the time of writing (by the time of the midterm report, the numbers ministries and agencies that had joined were four and five respectively). According to government in the first nine months of 2017, almost 7 million online actions were performed by citizens, with over 17 million page views.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic Participation: Did not Change

As stated in the midterm report, the creation of a unified website for government ministries does not, in itself, promote access to government information. Ibid. pg. 34. The improvement of such access hinges on how government ministries choose to make use of this new platform. This commitment does not require the opening up of any information previously withheld from the public. It does, however, make information already available more easily accessible, hence its marginal impact on improving public access to government information. Thus, on one hand it is limited (rather than non-existent) due to the wider implementation of the commitment beyond what was expected in the action plan (since the commitment originally only referred to 'formulating a plan' and reaching a 'preliminary version' of the website, but eventually the site was fully launched). On the other hand, the scope of ministries that joined the website is limited, and hence the scope of more easily accessible information is also limited. It should be noted that government ministry websites not part of the unified website often neglect the Arabic sections of their websites, Arabic sections of websites can be neglected, https://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/data/pdf/m03772.pdf. making the information less accessible to more than 20 percent of the population that speak Arabic as their first language. Information is less accessible for Arabic speakers, http://www.cbs.gov.il/reader/newhodaot/hodaa_template.html?hodaa=201711113. The situation is better with government websites that are included in the unified website, but many of these have limited information available in Arabic. The Government ICT Authority clarified that it held a public consultation with the Israeli-Arab society in order to understand specific needs and specifications for websites and services provided in Arabic, and that the current scope of Arabic content in the unified website is limited because it is being rewritten, as opposed to being translated. The quantity of information in Arabic is expected to increase in the future.

It should also be noted that several of the ministries present on the unified website still maintain a separate website of their own. These separate websites are older and better known to the public and appear first on popular online search engines. Two interviewees, the former head of the Center for Empowerment of Citizens in Israel and a technology activist Interview with Mr. Tomer Lotan, former head of CECI, 17 September 2017; Interview with Mary Loitzker of the Public Knowledge Workshop, 13 September 2017. told the IRM researcher that this limits public use of the unified website, as the scope of its data is still limited. The government official in charge of the unified website says the separate websites are gradually becoming obsolete as they will no longer be updated, thus traffic to the unified website will continue to increase. Interview with Mr. Yogev Shamni, head of 'Accessible Government' unit, 18 September 2017.

An Israeli NGO offering online information on government services and citizen's rights vis-Ã -vis government agencies told the IRM researcher that, while the website is 'a step in the right direction,' its implementation was not in line with the declared objective of the commitment to focus on the informational needs of citizens. However, the NGO also said that they recently sensed a sincere change in the way the government is approaching the issue - becoming more open to learn from the experience of civil society and cooperate with them to bring information to the public. Interview with Mr. Amitai Koren, head of 'Kol Zchut' (Hebrew for 'Every Right') website, 18 September 2017.

Carried Forward?

This commitment was not carried forward to Israel's third action plan as the government has assessed it to be in the advanced stages of completion.


Israel's Commitments

  1. Civic participation processes in government

    IL0023, 2017, Capacity Building

  2. Resolution implementation reports

    IL0024, 2017, E-Government

  3. Action plan performance indicators

    IL0025, 2017, E-Government

  4. Government call centers

    IL0026, 2017, Marginalized Communities

  5. National Legislation Database

    IL0027, 2017, E-Government

  6. National Plan for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    IL0028, 2017, Audits and Controls

  7. Transparency criteria

    IL0029, 2017, Public Participation

  8. Publication of information legislative amendments

    IL0030, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  9. Transparency, participation, accessibility of information in local authorities and Ministry of the Interior

    IL0031, 2017, E-Government

  10. Publicly accessible databases

    IL0032, 2017, E-Government

  11. Remotely accessing government services

    IL0033, 2017, Capacity Building

  12. Paperless government

    IL0034, 2017, E-Government

  13. Open-source code

    IL0035, 2017, E-Government

  14. Evaluation of Open Government plan

    IL0036, 2017, OGP

  15. Contracting between the government and private sector

    IL0016, 2015, Open Contracting and Procurement

  16. Unified Website for Government Offices

    IL0017, 2015, Records Management

  17. Data.gov

    IL0018, 2015, Open Data

  18. Public's Satisfaction with Government Services

    IL0019, 2015, Public Participation

  19. ATI on legislation

    IL0020, 2015, Records Management

  20. Civic participation tools

    IL0021, 2015, E-Government

  21. Civic Participation

    IL0022, 2015, Public Participation

  22. Review of the Governmental Freedom of Information Unit's authority

    IL0014, 2015, Capacity Building

  23. Web for FOI

    IL0015, 2015, Right to Information

  24. Establishing a cross-sector forum that promotes open government programs

    IL0001, 2012, Public Participation

  25. State Budget Information Accessibility

    IL0002, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  26. Publication of Work Plans in Government Offices

    IL0003, 2012, E-Government

  27. Establishing a system of measurement and review and publicizing a government service report to the public

    IL0004, 2012, Capacity Building

  28. Cooperation between the government and the public in developing online applications

    IL0005, 2012, Private Sector

  29. Public Participation in Policymaking Processes

    IL0006, 2012, Public Participation

  30. Establishing a Freedom of Information Unit in the Ministry of Justice

    IL0007, 2012, Judiciary

  31. Developing technology infrastructure for providing government services

    IL0008, 2012, E-Government

  32. Inter-office Committee for Improving Business Processes

    IL0009, 2012, E-Government

  33. Creating a Government Contact Center (NAMAL - Meeting Point for Citizens)

    IL0010, 2012, E-Government

  34. Online Catalog of Government Services

    IL0011, 2012, E-Government

  35. Establishing a Unit for Government Service to the Public

    IL0012, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  36. Establishing a National Information Technology (IT) Unit Headed by a Government CIO

    IL0013, 2012, E-Government