How efficiently is budget money spent on launch and maintenance of official governmental websites? We submitted requests to federal executive, top regional executive, and regional legislative government bodies, asking them to provide amounts of budget costs for launch and maintenance of their official websites. Having analyzed the replies received, we make conclusions whether there is correlations between cost and quality of the websites in question.

Feedback Results

Below we provide figures illustrating the government bodies' responses to our requests.

Federal executive government bodies

Total requests: 79

Positive responses (cost figures provided): 15 (19%)

Negative responses (information denied): 19 (24%)

No response: 45 (57%)

 

Regional parliaments

Total requests: 83

Positive responses: 30 (36%)

Denials: 16 (19%)

No response: 37 (45%)

 

Regional governments

Total requests: 83

Positive responses: 34 (41%)

Denials: 12 (14%)

No response: 37 (45%)

 

A number of the responses stated that an official website had been launched and was maintained by the government body staff within their official functions, so no additional budget expenditures were needed. However, in such cases, it remains unclear what about hosting and software costs.

Information denials referred to various reasons. For regional parliaments, the most frequent motive to refuse to name cost figures is that this information concerns only economical activities, not direct functions, of a government body.

Regional governments provide another reason: the information in question is available openly at the state procurement portal. But if so, it is quite difficult to find it there since it is often impossible to learn what part of a large state procurement is assigned specifically for launch and maintenance of an informational resource. Moreover, many websites were launched before the state procurement portal (2011) so that it contains no information on those sites.

 

Expensive Is Not Always Dear

According to the data provided, federal executive government bodies' websites are much more expensive than regional resources. This is logical:

  • most of federal websites place large databases taking much resource for their creation and maintenance;
  • many of them place their regional departments' websites at second-level domains taking additional resource for efficient functioning, and
  • federal websites pay more attention to design quality also needing additional costs.

The most expensive website is the one belonging to the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr); it costs RBL 158,105,000. The most budget-friendly website belongs to the Federal Service for Drug Control and costs RBL1,173,000. Such disparity can be explained by variance of resource needed for informational coverage of tasks and functions of different federal executive government bodies.

For regional parliaments, cost amounts vary from RBL 17,310 for the Kalmykia Republic People's Khural to RBL 860,000 (i.e. about 50 times greater) for the Orel Oblast Council of People's Deputies.

For regional governments, the most expensive website costs RBL 22,228,500 and belongs to the Voronezh Oblast Government. The most budget-friendly website belongs to theUlyanovsk Oblast Government and costs RBL 20,000, i.e. about 1111 times less than the most expensive one (according to the information we have received).

Such cost disparity for regional bodies' websites is embarrassing since they are expected to have similar powers and competences so that their websites should be alike in structure and functions.

 

How Much Does 1% of Openness Rate Cost?

Within the FIF methodology for evaluating official websites' informational openness, informational availability is rated by a coefficient (IACoef) that can vary from 0 to 100% where 100% means full compliance with all legislative and expert requirements taken into account within monitoring and 0% usually means website absence.

To assess correlation between website launch/maintenance costs and its quality, FIFresearchers calculated cost value for 1% of the IACoef for websites of each category of government bodies in question.

Federal executive government bodies

Average cost: RBL 278,372 (the largest among three categories)
Maximal cost: RBL 2,359,775 (the Rosreestr)
Minimal cost: RBL 17,528 (the Federal Tariff Service)


Regional parliaments

Average: RBL 6,831
Maximal: RBL 17,551 (the Orel Oblast Council of People's Deputies)
Minimal: RBL 444 (the Kalmykia Republic People's Khural)


Regional governments

Average: RBL 89,653
Maximal: RBL 793,875  (the Voronezh Oblast Government)
Minimal: RBL 282 (the Ulyanovsk Oblast Government)

The key question of the study was: is there correlation between money spent on a governmental website and its informational openness? 
Common sense makes to believe that the more expensive a website is, the more informational and user-friendly it should be. However, we have found that it is not so.

For instance, the Volgograd Oblast Duma website, one of the most budget-friendly ones (total cost: RBL 51,640), lead our informational openness rating for regional parliaments in 2013.

At the same time, the most expensive website of that category, that of the Orel Oblast Council of People's Deputies (total cost: RBL 860,000), held the 43rd position in the rating (IACoef: 48.504%).

The best Cost/IACoef ratio for all regional government bodies' websites is that for the Ulyanovsk Oblast Government. It cost RBL 20,000. Its initial IACoef was 49.8%, and upon interaction with the FIF research team, grew up to 71.4%. Therefore, 1% of the IACoef cost just RBL 282 for this website.

And this is not a singular example. A number of websites have improved their informational openness rate twice within interaction with our researchers without either any technical modifications or introducing any new expensive options.

 

Conclusion

Larger cost of a governmental website rather not always means its better informational openness due to different efficiency of budget expenditures. Of course there are many factors impacting this: from regional price formation specificities to artificial corruptogenic overpricing. It is obvious that budget expenditure efficiency, not plain amount, is of key importance for providing a sound resource meeting legislative requirement and citizens' informational needs as fully as possible.

We have not taken into account website launch dates since this is not a key factor impacting the costs.

More details on the study results are available (in Russian) at the Infometer portal (here andhere).