First Review of Accessibility and User Friendliness of 63 Provincial E-service Portals in 2023

Opening remarks by Mr. Patrick Haverman, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Viet Nam

July 11, 2023

Opening remarks by UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Viet Nam Patrick Haverman

UNDP in Viet Nam

Mr. Nguyen Minh Hong, Chairperson of Viet Nam Digital Communications Association,
Mr. Nguyen Quang Dong, Director of the Institute for Policy Studies and Media Development (IPS)
Distinguished panellists and participants from central and provincial government agencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning! Xin chao! It's an honour to be here alongside Mr. Nguyen Minh Hong to open today's discussion on the accessibility and user-friendliness of 63 Provincial E-service Portals.

Vietnam is fully committed to digital transformation in the public sector. The government's vision, outlined in the National Digital Transformation Programme, aims to achieve 100% online processing of public administrative procedures and recognizes the importance of bringing citizens into the digital environment and ensuring inclusivity to leave no one behind during this process. 

We have conducted extensive studies that shed light on the challenges faced by citizens. Barriers such as complex login requirements, technical issues, and a lack of digital competencies among public officials have hindered the use of e-services in several provinces. 

Back in 2021 and 2022, the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and UNDP in Viet Nam conducted in-depth studies on access to online public services for ethic communities in six provinces of Ha Giang, Gia Lai, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Quang Tri and Hoa Binh. Findings from the action research showed that the use of e-services in all six provinces was extremely limited. 

The Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) findings since 2018 have shown, very few citizens have used the e-services being offered at both the central and provincial levels. In 2022, for instance, barely over 1% used the e-portals to process administrative procedures for them or their family members. 

The question is how can we increase these numbers? Citizens accessing E-government services could lead to a more efficient government, lower costs for the government, shorter waiting times for the citizens, less paperwork for the citizens and more transparency in the processes. 

To address citizens' reluctance to use e-services and improve their experience, the Institute for Policy Studies and Media Development (IPS) and UNDP in Vietnam conducted an extensive review of 63 provincial e-service portals. This review aimed to identify gaps in digital competencies between service providers and users, informing a training program for public sector personnel to bridge these gaps and prioritize user-first approaches.

After more than six months of intensive work, the research team has produced a crucial review report with significant implications for policy and practice in enhancing digital governance in Vietnam. While we will delve into the findings later, I want to highlight two significant discoveries and their implications for today's discussion.

  • First, the search tools on most provincial e-service portals are not yet user-friendly. Specifically, 36 portals do not display the search tools on their homepages, requiring users to spend exhaustive time searching through sub-pages. The search tool is also not effective, as 25 portals do not generate results if the keywords are misspelled. Additionally, four portals require users to log in before conducting a search, and four portals require users to include the state agency’s name before searching.

    This implies the need to improve the usability of the search tools. To do so, three user-friendly elements should be addressed: (1) easy accessibility, with the search tool prominently displayed on the homepage; (2) optimization of keyword-based search and the inclusion of suggestions for closest search results; and (3) inclusion of the voice search functionality.

  • Second, all 63 e-service portals are difficult to access for users with visual impairments and ethnic minority communities. For visually impaired users, the support of screen reader browsers is necessary. However, none of the portals ensure all six criteria for basic accessibility as specified in the global guidelines for accessible websites. For ethic minority communities, 62 portals do not supply voice search functionality, while the search tools of 25 portals do not yield results if the search keywords are misspelled, causing difficulties for ethnic minority users who may not be proficient in writing standard Vietnamese. 

    Therefore, enabling information retrieval through voice search or with closely related procedure names is crucial. This suggests the e-service portals’ administrators regularly (monthly or quarterly) use automated scanning tools (such as Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools and Accessibility Insights) to review and improve the user friendliness and accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Also, video guidance on how to log in and search for procedures in major ethnic languages is needed to enable ethnic minority citizens to use the e-services. To get to these points, involving people with disabilities and ethnic minority people in the design of the e-service portals will help enhance user experience, as in the case of Thua Thien-Hue’s e-service portal that we were proud to support in early 2022.

To achieve these improvements, it is crucial that we involve people with disabilities and ethnic minorities in the design process. By doing so, we can enhance the user experience and make our e-services truly inclusive.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that during the seminar this morning, we will have the opportunity to delve deeper into the findings and suggestions. It is an immense pleasure for us to have great panellists from relevant central and provincial state agencies today. They will provide us with insights into practical issues and how such issues can be addressed to enhance accessibility and user friendliness of provincial e-service portals. We welcome your constructive comments and reflections on our work throughout the seminar.

I want to express my gratitude to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for this review through the Citizen-Powered Innovation Initiative (CPII) under the PAPI research programme. 

I am confident that the findings and suggestions from this review will drive 1. Hopefully drive more people to use E-government services and 2. Creates positive change in the user experience of public e-services in Vietnam, especially for those who are more disadvantaged.

Thank you, and let's continue this discussion with constructive comments and reflections from our esteemed panelists.

Chúc sức khỏe. Xin cảm ơn!