The Infometer continues to study informational openness of the largest Russian cities. After the 2015 pilot study we have once more audited official websites of the municipalities. Open data are processed mostly by software developers while the wide public gets indirect advantages from their publication; at the same time, cities' official websites are seen by almost everyone. Therefore, requirements to volumes and availability of the information published at the websites are more strict.
We have studied information published at the municipalities' official websites and checked if:
- municipalities observe normative requirements to information placement;
- municipalities develop online services for feedback and solving local urban problems.
Information filling of the websites has appeared to be far from ideal. This is true also regarding information mandatory for online placement; according to Article 12.37 of the Administrative Offense Code of Russia, in such a case, municipal officials in charge may be brought to administrative liability.
1. Information on Human Resources
Municipalities must place this information not only at their own websites but also at the federal state service staff portal. Only 28 cities (17%) really do it. And only for 14 cases, the data at the federal portal match the data at the cities' websites.
If placement of the relevant information at the federal portal were improved anyone seeking for a job in a municipality could monitor relevant vacancies and any resident of a specific city could see more full pattern of the municipality staff formation.
2. City Planning Information
The Urban Planning Code obliges government bodies to publish a certain set of the city planning information, including statements on land condemnation, land use and develo0pment regulations, territory planning documentation, draft local urban management normative, and so on.
Only 6 city administrations - those of Rybinsk (Yaroslavl Region), Taganrog (Rostov Region), Obninsk (Kaluga Region), Novoshakhtinsk (Rostov Region), Nizhny Tagil (Sverdlovsk Region), and Berezniki (Perm Territory) place this information at their websites.
If cities placed such information, a city resident would know in time whether he/she is to move due to large planned construction, would he/she get any remedy for condemned land, and where it would be better to purchase some real property.
3. Interactive Services
- Online public hearings
- A portal for tracking problems of the city and proposals coming from the public
- Publics in social networks
5 cities implement this potential in full: these are Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Tagil, Novoshakhtinsk, Taganrog, and Yoshkar Ola. In general, most of the cities have at least one feedback option and this is good.
Anna Ovchinnikova from the administration of Novoshakhtinsk speaks of working with interactive services:
“ The official website of the Novoshakhtinsk City Administration provides to citizens additional possibilities to apply to the Administration by means of the "Mayor's Online Reception" interactive service and to track application review progress. Applications submitted via the service are registered by a specialist of the Administration's general department and transferred to the Mayor for review. Responses are sent to email address provided in the application within 30 days. To provide additional feedback from the wide public of the city, there are also other online services such as "Social Surveys", "Proposals and Opinions on Issues Discussed", "Online Public Hearings". The public also can leave comments to the city news. People with sight disorders can get information on activities of the Novoshakhtinsk city self-government bodies by means of a special version of the website. In the nearest future, we plan to upgrade the Personal Area service in order to synchronize it with other services working at the official website and to extend possibilities and facilities for interaction with the public. For instance, by means of his/her personal page, a city resident will be able not only to track his/her application review progress but also to get a response.
Major Information Categories
32 cities inform on planned land condemnation at their websites
45 websites provide information on independent inspections of city administrations and on their results.
Vasily Ignatov (Administration of Bratsk, Irkutsk Region) speaks on most demanded section of the city official website and of existing difficulties:
“ According to statistical data we collect regularly, the sections most demanded by people are: news, reporting, municipal transport schedule, list of administration statements and orders, and citizens' applications. Less demanded but not less important are sections for rent competitions and tenders, e-queues for families to kindergartens, search for adopting parents for orphan children, and city event announces. From organizational point of view, the most difficult task is to maintain actuality of all information at the website: different city committees are in charge of timely updates for different website sections so that it is not always easy to track update quality and timeliness of the whole website. As for technical aspect, most difficulties are caused by necessity to maintain website availability for older versions of Internet Explorer (8 or 9). This makes it difficult or even impossible to implement modern technology possibilities.
After initial evaluation, cities' representatives could get familiar with its results and proposals we prepared for them. 40 officials joint free online interaction. Following our proposals, they placed necessary information online and improved positions of their websites in the final rating. Officials of Nizhnevartovsk (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area – Yugra), Bratsk (Irkutsk Region), and Vladimir city administrations were most active in the interaction.
Officials of city administrations express their opinions on the interaction.
“ Today, public audit of the official website by the Infometer experts is the most efficient way to check an online resource for compliance with legislative requirements and to improve its position in the all-Russian rating.
Anna Ovchinnikova, Administration of Novoshakhtinsk (Rostov Region)
“ In this interaction, everything – unbiased advice, timely responses – do suit us. We use the Infometer as a work tool.
Anton Sivoplyas, Administration of Taganrog (Rostov Region)
- Unfortunately, at present, city administrations observe provisions of the federal law on information access (No. 8-FZ from February 9, 2009) not fully. Many data listed in the law Article 13 (information on subordinate organizations, on human resources, on procurements) are often absent. In accordance with the Administrative Offence Code, Art. 13.27, this is an offence punished by fine amounting from 3,000 to 5,000 rubles. In some cases, officials were brought to administrative liability by courts.
- Legal acts are often published as graphic copies so that users cannot perform text search or copy any text.
- Requirements for disclosure of information on legal acts cancelled by courts are not observed.
- Information on procedures for provision of municipal services is often absent. Only in 14 cities, there are mobile applications helping to share website content and to obtain some municipal services.
- Taking into account best practices of governmental website maintenance, we have offered to extend city administrations' websites by interactive tools: surveys, voting polls, forums, comments to materials. Cities' accounts in social networks also become a useful openness tool.
18:30, 08 June 2016