Demand for online government services is growing.
A study by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) on the uptake of online government services in 31 countries and territories around the world shows Australian adoption rates have increased significantly, at rates well ahead of the global increase. First conducted in 2001, the results of the 2002 study give interesting indications of how citizen uptake of online government services is growing and moving.
The proportion of adults in Australia using the Internet to access government services or products increased by nearly 50 per cent year on year. Some 46 per cent of adults in Australia have used online government services in 2002 compared with 31 per cent in 2001.
As we see levels of uptake approach the 50 per cent mark, it is interesting to note that although citizens globally have felt safer dealing and transacting with government over the Internet, safety issues continue to surround and impede online government services. About two in every three citizens globally (64 per cent in 2001, 63 per cent in 2002) still cite “unsafe/very unsafe” as their concern or barrier on interacting with online government services. The figure was 66 per cent in 2002 in Australia.
Like the rest of the world, most Australian online government services use is involved with information seeking (38 per cent), and it is this use which has increased most since 2001 both here (up from 20 per cent in 2001) and overseas. Australia is well above the global average (24 per cent information seeking in 2002, up from 20 per cent in 2001).
Clearly, the Internet offers government the potential for much more than information dissemination. While some countries have achieved a reasonable level of interaction through two-way information exchange (Denmark: 25 per cent providing and Singapore: 23 per cent providing) or payment (Sweden: 22 per cent transacting) in 2002, the global average is quite low. Providers (those who provide information over the Internet) represent 8 per cent of the global population while transactors (who provide bank account or credit card details to government over the Internet in exchange for service, product, infringement or rebate) represent 7 per cent.
So while the potential is apparent, with growth continuing and adoption rates rising, it is clear there are many areas governments must be aware of when planning for the uptake of government services.
There are three key areas TNS has found in related research to be barriers to adoption of government services online. These are: awareness (citizens unaware of the Web site, or of services provided), trial (lack of Internet access/cost of access, not able to find the Web site, no reason to break the offline routine of interacting) and barriers to continued usage (services are not relevant, Web site is not easy to use, security and privacy concerns, information is not up to date).
The TNS study consists of two components. First is the global and national benchmark studies which have been conducted since 2001 which provide benchmarks against which individual government departments can measure themselves in terms of: reach, adoption, demographic characteristics and concerns over safety of personal information. Second is a syndicated market research study — conducted for the first time in 2002 — that provides data against which government agencies can further measure their own performance. They include government Web sites visited, satisfaction with government Web sites, perceived advantages of using government Web sites, barriers preventing greater use demand and interest in a range of new online government services and payment options: now and in the future.
Alison Dexter is national director, social and government research team for Taylor Nelson Sofres Australia
The Government Online Study was undertaken by the social and government division of Taylor Nelson Sofres, via telephone and face-to-face interviews with 29,000 people across 31 countries or territories between July and September 2002. Those countries or territories covered by the study are: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, US.
A global summary can be downloaded at www.tnsofres.com/gostudy2002.
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