Some key issues that should be considered when deciding how RMA information and services will be delivered through the internet include:
Access to the internet
Internet access cannot be assumed. Barriers to access may be physical (e.g. the availability of computers, modems, telephone lines and network hardware) or may refer to a person's ability or willingness to engage with a council through the internet. As it is impossible for councils to remove all of these barriers some level of 'face-to-face' service will still need to be provided.
Developing e-RMA is currently limited by existing levels of broadband access. In 2009, approximately 25 percent of New Zealand households did not have internet access at home. Of those households that did have internet access, approximately 12 percent had a dial-up connection. Each region had close to, or over 50 percent, broadband access and the majority had upload speeds of 256kbps or more. In 2012 the number of households without internet access had decreased by 5 percent to only 20 percent of New Zealand households.
Between 10 percent and 20 percent of the New Zealand population have disabilities. The internet offers people with disabilities the possibility of unprecedented access to information and interaction. However, to be accessible RMA information and services need to be available in a format that can be altered by persons with disabilities or impairments otherwise this communication opportunity will be lost.
Web accessibility refers to the ability for people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web. The Government Web Standards contain standards to help address barriers that may be encountered by people with physical, visual, hearing and cognitive and/or neurological disabilities. In developing information and services for the internet, account should also be taken of international (e.g. W3C) and local standards (e.g. Internet NZ). For more information on web accessibility refer to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) website.
When developing material for the internet councils should consider the cultural diversity in their local area (e.g. language) and how that may affect access to e-RMA services.
The security of personal data is a fundamental concern for internet users and may mean that some information should not be stored on internet-accessible databases.
Website users should be able to easily orientate themselves and to quickly navigate to the information and services they are seeking. When they have found their way to the information/services they should be able to easily interact with any feature available or conveniently download information.
Usability is a quality attribute to assess how easy the user interfaces are to operate. It also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. Usability is critical to the success of a website as people are unlikely to use it if it is difficult to navigate.
Usability is comprised of five quality components:
- learnability - how easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design, particularly with little or no instruction?
- efficiency - how quickly can users perform tasks once they understand the design?
- memorability - how easily can users re-establish proficiency after a period of non-use?
- errors - how many errors do users make, how severe are these errors and how easily can they recover from these?
- satisfaction - does the design of the site satisfy user requirements?
Another important quality attribute is utility, which refers to the design's functionality: does it offer what users need?
Usability and utility are equally important. For instance, it matters little that something is easy to use if it does not contain the information sought.
Integrity refers to the quality of the website and the internet-enabled RMA information and services available. Links within websites need to be robust and any information provided should be up to date, complete and authoritative.
Authenticating the identity of a user is an important aspect of many RMA practices and procedures (e.g. resource consent applications, submissions). It is a common issue in business and councils will also need to consider ways in which user identity can be authenticated.
Interoperability refers to the ability to transfer and use information in a uniform and efficient manner across multiple organisations and information technology systems.
Service delivery architecture
As well as engaging appropriate technical expertise to deliver an e-RMA system, RMA managers will need to consider how they organise or structure the technology (known as 'service delivery architecture') that will be used to deliver RMA information and services. The broad objectives for organising service delivery architecture are to:
- develop a common standard to avoid replicating efforts
- ensure organisational operations are externally and internally integrated
- allow seamless provision of information and services.
Councils should adopt a consistent approach to the management and delivery of on-line services. The Government ICT Directions and Priorities website provides a useful source of further information