Different content, common approach: modern websites have been created to facilitate communication with public authorities and municipalities
Easy to use on any device, understandable and accessible to everyone - from 23 July, the State Chancellery invites everyone to get acquainted with the first pilot project websites of public administrations with a unified design. These new, more secure and more easily accessible websites of a unified design will allow every inhabitant of Latvia to easily and conveniently find the necessary information and communicate with state and local government institutions; moreover, they will meet the highest security and accessibility standards.
At a time when a large proportion of society communicates with public authorities and municipalities digitally, most of the public administration websites are out of date, with almost half of them being over 6 years old, some even 10 years old*, and only a fifth having been adapted for mobile use**. In addition, they are very different in their design, making it difficult for people to find the information they need easily, quickly and conveniently. According to the survey data***, 63% of inhabitants of Latvia have visited a website of a state institution or a local government over the course of the last six months. Almost half of respondents (47%) indicated that it was not easy to find the information that they were looking for.
Therefore, within the framework of the “Unified Platform of State and Local Government Websites” project implemented by the State Chancellery, a sustainable solution has been created, building a shared platform, the components of which can be used again and again in order to create new websites of public administration institutions according to unified principles.
“The unified website platform is a dream that is becoming a reality - accessible and convenient digital communication with the state for everyone. All of the new websites will be accessible to people with visual, hearing and mobility impairments, they will be safe and easy to use, adaptable to mobile devices, and have a unified design, as well as be maintained centrally. For example, if someone has recently visited the website of the State Employment Agency, then the website of the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Transport will already seem familiar to them and they will be aware of the available options, because all of the websites are based on a shared principle - to be understandable and user-friendly for everyone,” said Vita Vodinska, the Project Manager of the Unified Website Platform of the State Chancellery.
Work on this project has been going on for more than two years, developing design, security and accessibility solutions that meet the highest standards. The unified website platform is developed by the State Chancellery in close cooperation with the Information Centre of the Ministry of the Interior, which is the holder of the platform's technical resources, the State Regional Development Agency, which provides technological maintenance of the platform and advisory, technological and user support, as well as compliance with security requirements, and the Culture Information Systems Centre, which oversees the integration of the public administration machine translation service and the virtual assistant in the unified website platform.
Currently, as part of the pilot project, 13 new institution websites will be available to the people; however, the work is being continued, and another 47 institutions are planned to have joined the project by the end of the year. The first institutions that are involved in the project are as follows:
- Ministry of the Interior
- Procurement Monitoring Bureau
- Culture Information Systems Centre
- Investment and Development Agency of Latvia
- Ministry of Transport
- Ministry of Justice
- State Employment Agency
- State Regional Development Agency
- Health Inspection
- Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development
- Information Centre of the Ministry of the Interior
- Riga City Municipality (as the unified website platform will also be available to municipalities in the future)
- and also the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which was included in the pilot project by the project implementers in response to the emergency caused by the Covid-19 virus, as its catastrophically outdated website serves as the main source of information regarding the spread of the virus in Latvia for many inhabitants of Latvia.
“I am very pleased that we’ve taken yet another important step in the implementation of the Public Administration Reform Plan, completely changing and modernising the communication possibilities of the population with the public administration. The new websites will meet both 21st century functionality requirements and security and accessibility standards. Within this project, we have faced great challenges and created effective and modern solutions. It is particularly gratifying to see the SPKC as part of the pilot project in a rapid response to the wide spread of Covid-19. In the future, the unified website platform will also be used by municipalities, so it was important to test the creation of such a website within the pilot project, trying to transfer an especially complex system to the new platform, which was the Riga City Council websites and information systems. Now we are ready to ensure the smooth and efficient migration of the websites of other institutions that are involved in the project,” said Jānis Citskovskis, the Director of the State Chancellery.
Important modifications have been made in the field of website responsiveness to the device, making them equally easy to use both on PCs and mobile devices, and in the field of accessibility by providing easy-to-understand content, voice synthesis and other solutions that make websites accessible to people with disabilities. A virtual assistant (chatbot) will also be available in the coming months in order to help website visitors find answers to frequently asked questions more quickly and easily. The websites have also been improved in terms of security management and update implementation, as well as equipped with other tools that facilitate the creation and publication of content, such as the Hugo.lv machine translator, which will allow institutions and municipalities to prepare draft translations into English and Russian.
Moreover, it will be much easier for the institutions to manage their websites, as the content management system will be unified, meaning that it will be possible to consult colleagues from other institutions in the case of any uncertainties or staff changes. Various integration options have also been introduced to reduce the workload without creating new modules, instead by taking data on vacancies, procurement, services, etc. from the already existing systems.
“I am very pleased with the work that the State Chancellery has done within the Unified Website Platform project. A lot of hours have been put in to ensure that all of the inhabitants of Latvia have equal access to information provided by public authorities. Noticeable improvements have been made in terms of accessibility: the features available on the websites allow one to change the way the content is viewed, allowing the elderly, the visually impaired, and people who are colour blind, to easily and conveniently use content created by public authorities. Another great addition is the possibility of downloading documents from the institutions' websites. From a security point of view, good practice has been followed, warning the user of potential risks when going to an external link,” said Vlad Omete, Senior Usability Designer at the European Commission.
Recommendations and information about any identified flaws in the new websites are welcome by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Institutional survey conducted by the State Chancellery, 2016.
***The survey “Evaluation of Websites of State Institutions and Local Governments” was conducted in April 2020 by the SKDS market and public opinion research centre, surveying 1005 Latvian residents aged 18 to 75 on the internet.
of the Communication Department of the State Chancellery
Telephone: +371 67082912