Accessible eGovernment services : developing a parental benefit calculator with improved usability
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An online parental benefit calculator offered earlier by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation (NAV) gave only simple estimates on how long a mother or father could take the parental leave and did not support assessment of scenarios allowing for combination of the leave with a part-time job, the so-called “graded withdrawal”-scenarios. To work out such scenarios, the parents-to-be had either to get acquainted with the regulations and work out the various scenarios manually or contact the local social security office for assistance. We present a prototype of a new version of the parental benefit calculator. The new version provides an enhanced functionality, supporting the evaluations of the different “graded withdrawal”-scenarios among others. Our prototype offers also a support for monitoring of the use of the calculator. The developed database will collect data, allowing NAV to analyze in detail how the online calculator is used. These data are likely to provide a valuable insight into whether or not the provided calculator services meet its objectives and how it may be improved. We also propose a new graphical user, providing a more intuitive presentation of the possible parental benefit plans. Additionally, it is developed using Open Sources Software and in adherence with Open Standards to guarantee easy of further development and maintenance. The prototype has also been developed adhering to usability and accessibility guidelines. Ensuring high usability and full accessibility is vital, especially in case of public services. The goals of eGovernment are to provide better, more effective services. The developmental work was conducted using RAD (Rapid Application Development) approach, which involves development of applications through iterative process of prototyping and implementation. The initial prototypes of the graphical user interface were sketched on the paper rather than coded. The paper-prototyping approach is useful for quick exploration and communication of various ideas. The subsequent prototype versions were tested using heuristic evaluations and against accessibility guidelines. The purpose of the prototype is to let the government offer an accessible service on the Internet to the citizens which is more usable for everyone, even for people with disabilities. NAV will gain benefit of this by being able to offer a better public service on the Internet which will lead to a substantial decrease in face-to-face consultations that currently need to be conducted by the NAV officers. Our prototype demonstrates how the eGovernment solution can be improved both in terms of its utility and its technical design. It also demonstrates how the solution is made more efficient when taking both the accessibility and usability aspects explicitly into account.
Masteroppgave i informasjons- og kommunikasjonsteknologi 2007 – Høgskolen i Agder, Grimstad