Government departments above the county level should each have one official website that is open, informative, convenient to use and free from commercial advertisements, according to the guidelines on government websites released by the State Council on June 8.
Southern Metropolis Daily commented on June 10:
The new guidelines have come at a time when many government-run websites and apps have failed to update their content for years due to the lack of maintenance. Some of them, especially those below the county level, were no more than a whim or vanity project. That is why the guidelines aim to limit the number of government websites in this way.
Designed to enhance the interaction between civil servants and citizens and encourage public participation in local governance, many websites and apps end up updating their content on a yearly basis or reposting tasteless local news. Instead of being praised for bridging the distance between governments and the public, they often come under fire for being nothing more than “zombie websites”.
The lack of needed regulation is responsible for this situation. In other words, the critical questions of which departments are eligible and should be encouraged to partake in e-governance and by what means they should do so have seldom been answered. Without long-term plans and viable guidelines, local governments have embarked on various experiments to “govern online” using public money; unsurprisingly, many of them have failed.
That the central government has stepped up its supervision of local e-governance practices in recent years is a laudable move. The new guidelines are expected to further streamline the promotion of online governance and ensure it serves its intended purpose.