The size and shape of government web

As part of the Web Consolidation Strategic Assessment work, we’ve been looking at the government web domain and doing some analysis and categorisation. This work is part of our current state analysis, and it helps us understand the existing landscape better. We’re doing this work to figure out the best way forward.

How many websites?

Just how many websites does central government have? Back in July 2011, the Rethink Online strategy estimated that there were “approximately 600 websites across government”. The Result 10 Blueprint in June 2014 estimated that there “over 1,000 government websites.”

But all of these estimates were just that: estimates. Since our current governance model doesn’t require government agencies to report on how many websites they have, we simply haven’t had a proper answer. So we set out to find one.

We put together a list of government websites (including .org.nz and .co.nz) using the following sources:

  • lists maintained by Government Information Services (GIS) at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA)
  • listings on parliament.nz, Govt.nz and the since-decommissioned newzealand.govt.nz
  • feedback from the current state survey we did, where we got data on 156 websites from 10 agencies
  • Common Crawl

We excluded schools and tertiary websites, and local council websites. We were looking for how many websites central government has, and those websites don’t fit that definition.

As a result of this work, we came up with a list of approximately 750 websites. But we weren’t done.

For the next step, we asked digitally savvy staff from across DIA to pitch in. It was like an internal crowd-sourcing. We split up the list into segments of 10 websites each and our volunteers checked sites. They found (and we removed from the list) inactive and decommissioned websites, websites that were directed to other websites on the list, and social media presences (such as Facebook and Twitter profiles).

So, how many websites were left?

We came to the conclusion that — as of October 2014 — central government in New Zealand had at least 553 websites. We say ‘at least’ because we know there may have been some we missed.

Also, that number was a moment in time. Since October 2014 some websites have closed and some have opened. Without a governance model that requires reporting, this number is a constantly moving target.

But we’re working on 553 as our number for our current state analysis — a moment in time. Here's the full list of 553 websites from October 2014 (CSV, 442KB).

What’s the shape of the domain?

Our good volunteers also helped us to categorise those 553 websites based on organisation types, functional areas, content topics, and relevance to certain life events. This wasn’t an exact science as the work was quick and we had many people helping, but it gives us a much better picture of the shape of the government web domain than we’ve had before.

Here’s what we found out.

Organisation types

When looking at organisation types, we saw that nearly 300 of the 553 (60%) websites maintained by central government belong to Public Service departments. Nearly 25 websites (4%) belong to Independent Crown Entities. See the list below.

  1. Public Service department: 292
  2. Crown Entity — Crown Agent: 106
  3. Non-Public Service department: 32
  4. District Health Board: 31
  5. Independent Crown Entity: 24
  6. Autonomous Crown Entity: 23
  7. Crown entity company: 9
  8. State Owned Enterprise: 8
  9. Public Finance Act Fourth Schedule Organisation: 6
  10. Offices of Parliament: 5
  11. Other: 4
  12. Mixed Ownership Model company: 3
  13. Reserve Bank of New Zealand: 3
  14. Statutory Body: 3
  15. Public Finance Act Schedule 4A Company: 2
  16. Regulatory Authority: 2

Functional areas of a website

We also broke sites down different functional areas — such as contact information for the organisation, or careers and vacancies. We found, for example, that around 450 of the 553 websites (81%) contain contact information for the organisation, and 250 websites (45%) contain media or news content. See the list below.

  1. Contact information about services: 448
  2. Organisation information: 336
  3. Information about services: 308
  4. Media, news: 251
  5. Education, behaviour change: 168
  6. Forms, applications to access services: 134
  7. Careers, vacancies: 132
  8. Online accounts/specialist applications: 118
  9. Online tools, calculators, search: 116
  10. Policy development, consultation: 114
  11. Data, statistics: 98
  12. Information resources (encyclopedia style): 92
  13. Blog, magazine, forums: 37
  14. Promotion of New Zealand: 35
  15. Retail: 18
  16. Procurement: 5

The websites that don’t contain contact information for the organisation sometimes do have website technical administrator details, but they lack the details on how to get further information on the organisation’s services. That is, they have technical contact but not business contact details.

Topics of a website

But what about the topics that websites cover? Research in New Zealand shows that proliferation of government websites and agency-centric delivery has created a complex online environment with duplicated and overlapping content. This problem becomes evident when you look at the topics covered on the 553 websites.

The volunteers in our ‘crowd-sourced’ categorisation exercise placed the 553 websites into categories. We used the categories on the Govt.nz website, because that’s the closest thing we currently have to a user-centric, all-of-government information architecture.

The list below shows that over 120 websites (21%) cover the topic of health (but not limited to this topic), and that 40 websites (7%) cover the topic of housing and property (but not limited to this topic). This means there are many opportunities for duplicate content and inconsistencies across the government web domain. It also means that our customers may have quite a few places to look before they find what they want.

  1. Health: 125
  2. Work and jobs: 76
  3. Education and training: 73
  4. Consumer rights: 53
  5. Crime, law and justice: 49
  6. Money, benefits and tax: 46
  7. History, culture and heritage: 42
  8. Housing and property: 41
  9. Environment and climate: 39
  10. Driving and transport: 36
  11. Internet, media and communication: 36
  12. Community, arts and sport: 35
  13. Emergencies and disasters: 31
  14. Parliament and politics: 30
  15. Passports, travel and tourism: 27
  16. Citizenship and immigration: 19
  17. Births, deaths, marriages: 18

Websites relevant to life events

Lastly, we used the life event categories being used by the Result 10 Federated Service Delivery project to see how many websites were relevant to which life events. We found, for example, that nearly 40 websites (7%) contain information pertinent to the life event of ‘having a baby’, and nearly 25 websites (5%) contain information pertinent to the life event of ‘arriving in New Zealand’. See the list below.

  1. Dealing with a health/medical event: 59
  2. Giving birth to a child in New Zealand: 41
  3. Getting a job/managing employment registrations/qualifications: 35
  4. Buying or building a house: 28
  5. Arriving in New Zealand: 25
  6. Enrolling for tertiary education: 20
  7. Moving to NZ for extended stay: 20
  8. Dealing with natural disaster: 20
  9. Attending secondary school and doing NCEA: 20
  10. Becoming unemployed: 19
  11. Accused or convicted of breaking the law: 18
  12. Importing and exporting personal goods: 18
  13. Renting a property: 15
  14. Buying or selling a car: 15
  15. Becoming a senior citizen: 14
  16. Enjoying New Zealand’s public amenities: 14
  17. Selling a house: 13
  18. Travelling overseas from New Zealand: 13
  19. Volunteering for public service: 12
  20. Parenting a pre-schooler: 11
  21. Starting school: 11
  22. Guardianship, fostering or adoption of a child: 10
  23. Being a victim or witness of crime (personal): 10
  24. Getting your driver licence: 10
  25. Care of a dependent (not child): 9
  26. Entering a long-term relationship: 8
  27. Being a victim or witness of crime (property): 8
  28. Dealing with an emergency: 8
  29. Dealing with a civil legal matter: 8
  30. Preparing for and managing bereavement: 7
  31. Becoming bankrupt: 7
  32. Ending a long-term relationship: 6
  33. Buying and selling personal goods: 6
  34. Enrolling to vote and voting: 6
  35. Getting a pet: 5

Next steps

The Web Consolidation Strategic Assessment work is currently underway and includes research into what other jurisdictions are doing in the space, the New Zealand current state and possible future states, and an investigation into whether or not web consolidation could improve the user experience and bring about cost savings for government in the New Zealand context.

The Web Consolidation Strategic Assessment will be delivered to the Digital Service Council in the first quarter 2015 and it will include recommended next steps.

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