China aims to make necessary information public on government websites and respond to public concerns in a timely manner. A recent review by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, showed about 85 percent of government websites disclosed critical information in a timely fashion and the number of “zombie” government websites had dropped sharply.
The State Council reviewed 746 government websites in June, including the portals of 71 departments under the central government and 32 provincial-level governments. The results, released on July 26, showed only 15 percent of government websites were not complying with the standard requirement of timely disclosure of information and responding to public concerns. The review also showed more than 80 percent of local government websites published State Council notices within 24 hours of their release.
According to the results of the review, the central government ministries under the State Council and such provincial-level governments as Beijing, Liaoning and Qinghai are among the best performers in terms of e-government development.
The review, however, found 112 government websites were not complying with the requirements－they had not been updated for a long time and didn’t respond to netizens’ questions on time. Some of them didn’t even provide basic information on local governments and departments.
Consequently, the State Council asked governments at all levels to attach greater importance to websites, and interact regularly with gov.cn, the official website of China’s Cabinet.
The review is considered an important part of the central government’s efforts to be more transparent and to streamline the administration, which Premier Li Keqiang first highlighted in last March, in order to integrate government work with the internet.
“Efforts were accelerated to increase government transparency and expand the application of e-government and online administration,” Premier Li said in the Government Work Report in March.
Premier Li also said efforts will be made to make government operations more transparent by using both traditional and new media, including the internet, to respond in a timely manner to social concerns and inform the public about the government’s work.
Websites are critical to the central government’s determination to promote better services, making it easier for people to get the government’s approval, said Ma Baocheng, director of the Decision-Making and Consultation Department of the Chinese Academy of Governance.
In his Government Work Report last year, the premier said the central government will establish a mechanism to create and monitor accountability for the implementation of major government policies, and introduce third-party evaluations.
The reviewed websites account for less than 2 percent of China’s more than 60,000 government websites, said Zhang Nan, associate professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management. “Governments under the city level have even more problems and need more stringent supervision and monitoring,” she said.
Ma participated in a third-party evaluation last year and found that governments in some provinces excelled in running official websites, allowing residents to upload required materials to get approval for businesses. “In Guangdong province, about 80 percent of the items can be approved online. The websites are interconnected, from provincial governments to the city, county and township governments,” Ma says.
The government possesses about 85 percent of the country’s information, Premier Li said at the opening ceremony of China Big Data Summit in Guiyang, capital of Southwest China’s Guizhou province, in May.
“However, many departments are reluctant to share the information they have with other departments,” Ma says. “This needs to be addressed in the future with a top-level design by the central government that would promote information sharing and connect them to meet the demand of the public.”