Baltic IT&T
Articles

ICT Events

E-government

E-society   

ICT Market

Communications

Archive

News

Baltic IT&T 2011

ICT Calendar

Contacts








Hosted by:
SigmaNet



 
   
About journalSite Map
Home > Articles > E-society

E-society266

E-Government And The Problems Of Differently Abled Persons On The Internet

People with various disabilities are perhaps the one segment in society which has the most to gain from the technologies of the electronic age. At the same time, however, they present some of the lowest rates of technology use among different groups in society. The result of this is that the potential benefits of computers and the Internet for differently abled people are far from being utilised to a proper degree. Computers and the Internet have a tremendous potential to expand the lives and increase the independence of people with disabilities. Homebound people can log in to order groceries, shop for appliances, research health issues, participate in online discussions, catch up with friends, or make new ones. Development of the Internet Society is one of the three major priorities stated in Lithuanias long-term strategy. This is in line with the aims of the European Union, too. Lithuanias goals in this regard are co-ordinated with the Lisbon Strategy and the E-Europe: Information Society for All initiative. It is quite important to make sure that differently abled people can use the opportunities of IT. This study presents the results of an analysis of major government Internet sites, the aim being to see how these are adapted to the needs of differently abled persons.


Egle Kazenikaitiene, Tatjana Bileviciene, Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuania

INTRODUCTION

The environment in the market, in workplaces, households and the area of leisure is rapidly changing all around the world today.  It is very important for people to have the ability to make use of the opportunities which are being afforded by information technologies.  IT and communications measures, along with information itself, are becoming very important personal tools in terms of shaping peoples perceptions of the world.

The Information (Knowledge) Society is an open, educated and learning society.  People can manage all areas of their activity more effectively by using the information resources of countries and the world.  Governmental institutions secure the accessibility of information, develop their infrastructure, and pursue greater international integration.  Citizens receive both opportunities and conditions for the comprehensive implementation of their capabilities and their rights, thus becoming sterling members of the modern global society by making active use of the advantages of modern information technologies.

Modernisation of governments through the use of information technologies in relevant processes allow for further development of E-governance.  Lithuania has a strategy focused on public administration development through the year 2010 [1], and it says that the focus should be on better management, administration of human resources, innovations in public services and E-government.

People who cant use information technologies lose the opportunity to receive certain kinds of information and public services.  Differently abled people often live in an unsuitable physical environment which makes it impossible for them to access information which is freely available to people without health problems.

When it comes to social information, it should be presented in ways which make it available to differently abled individuals.  Accessibility of information services should also be ensured, and all of this must be regulated by law.

INFORMATION SOCIETY, E-GOVERNANCE SPECIFICS IN EU, LITHUANIA

The European Parliament offers extensive support for Information Society development.  The reason for this is that this serves the interests of citizens and societies.  The Lisbon Strategy, which was approved by the Council of the European Union in 2000, said that during the subsequent decade, the EU would become one of the most competitive and dynamic economies in the world, this to be achieved on the basis of knowledge.  Creation of the Information Society was one of the targets in the Lisbon Strategy, which indicated that people are of the highest value in Europe, and they are the main focus of European policy.  Investments in people and the creation of active and dynamic welfare programmes are essential to ensure Europes participation in a knowledge-based economy.  It should also be ensured that this new economy does not exacerbate existing social projects such as unemployment, social gaps and poverty.

In 2005, the European Commission issued a communiqu, Common Actions for Stimulation of Development and Employment: Society Lisbon Programme [2], offering to re-invent the way in which the Lisbon Strategy was being implemented.  The European Council of Directors declared knowledge and innovations to be driving engines for stable development, announcing that the Information Society must be based on the widespread use of information and communications technologies which provide public services for small and medium enterprises and households.

The European Commissions i2010 initiative seeks to stimulate growth and employment in the Information Society [3], and this is a cornerstone for updating the Lisbon Strategy in pursuit of economic development and job creation.  The primary objectives of the modern Information Society are addressed in this initiative, which speaks to various programmes that are to be implemented between 2005 and 2010.

The i2010 action plan seeks to involve all citizens in E-government, to provide modern, trustworthy and acceptable services to citizens, to increase the effectiveness of E-governance, as well as the satisfaction of clients, to ensure that primary services are influential for citizens, and to create conditions which allow citizens to use convenient approaches to public services throughout all of Europe.

The European Committee of Economic and Social Affairs has released its first annual report on the i2010 programme, focusing on Information Society and digital environment policies in 2006 and 2007 [4].  The relevant communiqu focuses on the way in which the i2010 programme has helped to develop information and communications technologies in the context of the EU.  The main purpose of the communiqu is to focus on initiatives aimed at E-accessibility for local residents and industries.  The document also speaks to the benefits of information technologies for differently abled persons, focusing in particular on problems which relate to the creation of such technologies.

In all of the EUs member states, national reform programmes are based on ICT.  The primary focus is on E-governance, broadband connections and digital literacy.  National reform programmes often do not address problems related to ICT, and that is why further development such programmes is supported.

Lithuania became an active participant in the eEurope 2005 initiative [5] after it joined the EU.  Information technologies in various areas of life are creating new, more comfortable and more effective opportunities to receive various services and information.  Modernisation of governance is becoming the main factor in ensuring the coherent development of society.

The Lithuanian Concept on the Development of the Information Society [6] seeks to modernise governance through the use of computerised information resources.  E-governance is to be improved so that local governments can more easily receive information from state and local government institutions.  This is important so as to develop electronic context, to encourage the provision of E-services, and to allow local residents and businesses to use those services.  It is important to ensure that modern technologies become widely accepted.

The Lithuanian governments E-government concept [7] addresses E-governance in the country, seeking to improve the use of digital technologies in the provision of public services to institutions, local residents and businesses.  Specific Lithuanian conditions, as well as European initiatives in regard to E-governance, are addressed in the document.  The idea is that new ways of improving the quality of public services involve the ability of service recipients to communicate with the providers and to request and receive the relevant services without the need for face-to-face meetings.  The conceptual document particularly emphasises the enormous importance of digital technologies in the lives of differently abled persons.

E-governance projects improve the efficiency of administrative systems, lower the number of civil servants, and improve the quality of administration.  All local residents should have equal access to these technologies, and information-related E-services must be focused on clients.  Public services are gradually moving simple presentation of information on the Internet to much greater interactivity.  More widely available Internet and computer technologies have changed the lives of a great many people.  New services are being created, existing ones are being changed.  The bottom line is that information technologies offer better access to public services, they change the way in which services are rendered, and they help governments to respond to the needs of various groups of citizens in a better way.

According to the European Commission, Lithuania is in 13th place among the 25 EU member states when it comes to the Internet availability of major public services.  Lithuanias government has said that by 2008, 90% of such services will be available electronically.  Internet sites are of great importance in this regard, because they can be used to offer public information about government institutions, functions and services alike.

DIFFERENTLY ABLED PERSONS IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY

According to Lithuanian law, a disabled person is one who cannot ensure total or partial care of his or her personal or social life, pursue rights and accomplish duties as a result of inborn or acquired physical or mental disadvantages.  The status of such a person is determined by the relevant institutions.  According to official statistics, approximately 10% of Lithuanias residents are disabled to one degree or another, which means that there are some 340,000 people with this status in all.  Some 40,000 people cannot receive and process information in the usual way.

Lithuanias law on the social integration of differently abled persons [8] is aimed at providing equal rights and opportunities for such people, determining the principles of their social integration, and establishing the system for this purpose.  Integration is organised on the basis of the principle of equal rights and opportunities.

As information technologies expand, information becomes an increasingly important work tool for individuals a means for communications and for perceptions about the world.  Information is needed for independent and active lives, and differently abled persons have exactly the same rights and freedoms as everyone else.

The Lisbon Strategy seeks social and economic integration for everyone.  If ICT remains unavailable for differently abled persons, then such persons will face an even greater gap between themselves and the labour market.  Economic and social integration of differently abled persons is possible only if the principles and practices of E-accessibility are totally and effectively implemented.

When it comes to an information environment for differently abled persons, the main thing is to make sure that information resources are universally available.  There can be special portals for differently abled people, too.  There have been many EU development plans which have spoken to the need for Internet sites for differently abled Europeans.  The European Commission has referred to a set of recommendations prepared by the World Wide Web Consortium W3C on the availability of Web site content.  These are seen as a standard for adapting Web sites for the needs of differently abled persons.  The main aim is to increase Internet availability and to make its content available to everyone.

The European Commissions i2010 plan says that by 2010, all EU citizens must have easy and convenient access to E-services so as to reduce the digital gap and to deal with related problems.  Lithuania has approved a national programme related to the information environment of differently abled persons during the period between 2003 and 2010 [9].

In 2002, the Lithuanian Information Society Development Committee drafted a conceptual document on the adaptation of the information environment to the needs of differently abled persons.  The aim is to integrate older systems and databases with the latest architecture and solutions.  For instance, people with vision difficulties should be offered a synthesis of sound and Braille script.  The committee has pointed out that differently abled persons may receive, process and use information more slowly than is the case with other individuals.

GOVERNMENT WEB SITES

The Web sites of Lithuanian government institutions are supposed to ensure easy access to four essential types of information legal, administrative and cultural information, as well as information about environmental protection.  Lithuanian institutions provide a great deal of information on their Web sites.  The Electronic Gates of Government portal is a one-stop-shop location for the public services of administrative institutions, offering information to local residents, businesses and other interested parties.

The purpose of the Web sites of government institutions is to disseminate information about their activities via the Internet, thus encouraging people to take active part in governance processes, making sure that the activities of government institutions are clearly understood, providing E-services, and ensuring consultations between the government and the countrys residents.  It is important to adapt such Web sites to the needs of differently abled people, and the Lithuanian government has approved rules on making sure that this is done.

Overall requirements as to the Web sites of government institutions [9] were approved so as to standardise government institutions Web sites, thus helping to ensure their functionality, timeliness, trustworthiness, search functions, etc.  The requirements also define attitudes as to the structure of government institutions Web sites and their adaptation for the needs of differently abled persons.

Lithuanias Information Society Development Committee has approved methodological recommendations for the creation, testing and evaluation of Web sites adapted for the needs of differently abled persons.  Rules related to the provision of E-services through the Electronic Gates of Government also define standards for adaptation of Web sites for differently abled persons.

LITHUANIAN WEB SITES AND DIFFERENTLY ABLED PERSONS

Analysis of Lithuanias main Web sites was conducted by these authors in the autumn of 2006.  The focus was on the Web sites of Parliament, the Lithuanian president and his administration, the government, government ministries and other state institutions.  Links to these institutions are presented on the government Web site.  Our aim was to evaluate the extent to which the sites are adapted to the needs of differently abled persons.  The authors did not analyse technical solutions that were used, and 120 sites were analysed in all.  Only one of the three major Web sites had a link called adapted for differently abled persons that was the site of the government (www.lrv.lt). Parliaments Web site has a link called text version.  Nine ministry Web sites had such links 69.2% of ministries, in other words.  The percentage increases if we look at the Web sites of ministerial institutions, where 85% of the Web sites in various groups of institutions are adapted.  Among 22 parliamentary institutions, only three (13.6%) were adapted those of the Parliamentary Controller, the Centre for Investigating Genocide and Resistance, and Lithuanian national radio and TV.  The AA logo, which indicates adequate adaptation, is found only on four Web sites those of the Ministry of Education and Science, the Department of Differently Abled Persons, the Ministry of Justice, and Lithuanian radio and TV.  See Figure 1.

Web sites with such links include those of the Environmental Ministry and its Agency for Environmental Protection and Environmental Protection Inspectorate, The Treasury Ministrys Tax Inspectorate, the Labour Market Education Service and the Differently Abled Persons Service of the Ministry for Social Care and Labour (but not the Social Insurance Fund), the Roads Directorate, the State Transport Inspectorate, the Communications Ministry, the State Patients Till of the Ministry for Health Protection, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Economics Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Justice Ministry.  The portal of the Legal Information Centre, however, is not adapted for these specific needs.

The best adaptation is found on sites related to environmental protection, culture and education.  The same is true of Web sites of important institutions such as the Tax Inspectorate, the Patient Till and the Department of Statistics.  There are other very important institutions, however, which do not have the link adapted for differently abled persons the Ministry for Social Care and Labour, the Social Insurance Fund and the Labour Market.  Even the Electronic Gates of Government portal doesnt have the link adapted for differently abled persons.  The Web site of the Lithuanian Prosecutor-Generals Office does have a link.

Figure 2 presents the results of research in this field which was conducted by the Information Society Development Committee in the autumn of 2005.

We see here that there have been positive trends in the adaptation of governmental Web sites for differently abled persons.

CONCLUSIONS

Lithuanias Sustainable Development Strategy includes the principle of equal opportunities.  The document says that the issue of social gaps can be addressed by supporting the ability of social groups and local residents to receive a proper education and to choose or influence important solutions related to their lives.

Processes related to the development of the Information Society are directly linked to the activities of state institutions.  There are different ways in which public administration can be modernised via the use of information technologies.  This allows E-services which better serve the interests of local residents.  New technologies ensure cheaper and simpler processes in terms of information acceptance, processing, storage and transmission.  All kinds of institutions and enterprises are increasingly delivering public services via E-channels.

In seeking to ensure equal rights and opportunities for differently abled persons when it comes to their socio-economic integration, it is important to reduce the gap between these people and others.  One major factor is the adaptation of the Internet environment to their needs.  Information networks and E-mail help differently abled persons to pursue education, communications and social integration.  Availability of information services must be ensured from the very start.  Norms to adapt social information for differently abled persons must be regulated by law.  The stream of electronic information from governmental institutions must be available to everyone.

The bottom line is that differently abled persons must have equal rights and opportunities when it comes to socio-economic integration and involvement in life.  The Web sites of Lithuanian government institutions are insufficiently adapted to the needs of such persons at this time.  Only 28% of analysed Web sites have a link called adapted for differently abled persons.  As noted, some Web sites are adapted, but most institutions need to work on this.  Still, positive trends have been noted in this area.

REFERENCES

1.  Lithuanian government resolution concerning the strategy of public administration development through 2010, No. 488, 2004 04 28.

2.  Common Actions for Growth and Employment: The Community Lisbon Programme Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament. Com(2005) 330 final.

3.  i2010 A European Information Society for Growth and Employment.  Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions. Com(2005) 229 final.

4.  i2010 First Annual Report on the European Information Society.  Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions. Com(2006) 215 final.

5.  eEurope 2005: An Information Society for All.  Com(2002) 263 final.

6.  Lithuanian government resolution concerning the Lithuanian national concept on the development of the Information Society, No. 229, 2001 02 28.

7.  Lithuanian government resolution concerning a concept on E-government, No. 2115, 2002 12 31.

8.  The  Lithuanian law on the social integration of differently abled persons. No. I-2004, 1991 11 28.

9.  Lithuanian government resolution on joint rules for state Web sites, No. 480, 2003 04 18.

10.  Instructions from the director of the Information Society Development Committee, No. T-40, 2004 03 31.

11.  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.  W3C Recommendation, 5 May 1999, http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT.

12.  eAccessibility of Public Sector Services in the European Union, executive briefing, http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/e-government/resources/eaccessibility.


Rating - 10 (1 Votes)
 
My rating:
Mark: 
 
My comment:
Name: 
E-mail: 
366: 
Web site owners do not carry responsibility for materials submitted by commentators and reserve rights to delete ones violating legal regulations and breaching of the decencies. Thank you for understanding!

eBaltics
14.12.2019


Top news
Instantly online - 17 golden rules to combat online risks and for safer surfing mobile social networks [3]
Experts Warn of ICT Labour Shortage and Loss of Competitive Edge in Europe by 2015
Lithuanian organisations has been active to participate in CIP ICT PSP third call

Question for readers
How secure you evaluate your information and data?
Highly secure
  46%
Quite secure, but some security improvements are needed
  14%
Security is insufficient
  4%
No security at all
  36%