Governments Must Find New Ways to Encourage Citizen Take-Up of eGovernment, Accenture Study Finds
Majority of Citizens Use Government Web Sites Primarily for Information Rather Than Transactions
WASHINGTON; May 4, 2004 – A majority of regular Internet users visit government Web sites only to gather information on topics of interest such as tourism or health, rather than to conduct online transactions such as filing taxes and applying for passports, according to a new research study released today by Accenture.
The study, "eGovernment Leadership: High Performance, Maximum Value," is Accenture’s fifth annual global study of electronic government, or eGovernment, which is defined as governments providing information about services, as well as the ability to conduct government transactions, via the Internet. This year Accenture conducted both quantitative and qualitative research to learn about attitudes and practices regarding eGovernment. The study is based on results of a survey of 5,000 regular Internet users in 12 countries in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as a quantitative assessment of the maturity of eGovernment services in 22 countries.
Regular Internet Users
Saving time and money are the primary reasons that citizens who use the Internet said they would conduct transactions with governments online. In every country except Sweden, at least 75 percent of the survey respondents said that they would make greater use of eGovernment if it saved them time, and 70 percent said they would do so if it saved them money. Among respondents in Sweden, the figures were 60 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
However, despite such interest in online government services, the study found that citizens rarely take advantage of them. The top reasons that the Internet users surveyed gave for rarely or never visiting government Web sites include difficulty finding the correct site (up to 26 percent), ease of conducting business by telephone (up to 20 percent) or in person (up to 34 percent), on-line privacy concerns (up to 18 percent) and Internet security issues (up to 17 percent). Actual percentages varied depending on whether the country had low, medium or high Internet penetration rates.
"While there appears to be good understanding of the potential for eGovernment to save time and money, there is a considerable gap in citizen expectations that it can actually deliver on that promise," said Stephen J. Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture’s Government operating group. "This poses a challenge for those striving to become high-performance governments. They need to find innovative new ways to market their offerings, improve citizen awareness of the benefits, and increase take-up of online services."
The study identified five trends that are emerging in eGovernment:
- After a period of rapid expansion, the pace of eGovernment advances is slowing and many countries have hit a plateau of eGovernment maturity.
- Leaders in eGovernment are reaping tangible savings by being able to deliver enhanced government services while making operations more cost effective.
- Promoting eGovernment is becoming a growing priority in order to drive up usage.
- As countries reach eGovernment maturity, they face new challenges in integrating services. While some governments seek to integrate services across their own agencies and departments (horizontal integration), leaders in eGovernment are tackling the more-complex challenge of integrating local, state, federal and even international services (vertical integration).
- There is growing interest in offering personalised services to the individual citizen. By identifying and segmenting their citizen/user base, governments are able to provide citizens with more-relevant services and information—quicker and more cost-effectively.
"The slowdown in the deployment and use of government portals suggests that some countries are finally realising that portals alone won’t achieve the promise of what technology can do for them," said John Kost, managing vice president for Government Research Worldwide at Gartner, Inc., a leading technology research and advisory firm. "Moving forward, governments should focus on a coherent multi-channel strategy in which services should be citizen-centric, rather than program- or agency-centric."
For the fourth consecutive year Canada ranked first out of the 22 countries evaluated in terms of eGovernment maturity, or the level to which a government has developed an online presence. Singapore and the United States shared the second-place ranking, followed closely by Australia, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, which were tied for the fourth place. France ranked eighth, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom tied for ninth, and Belgium, Ireland and Japan jointly held the eleventh position.
The study found that advances in maturity on the whole are slowing down, as most countries have reached plateaus in terms of innovation, progress and impact related to the breadth and depth of services they offer. As a result, even the countries with the most-advanced eGovernment presences still have work to do to derive greater public-sector value.
The study also revealed gaps between the online services that governments provide for citizens and the ways citizens view and actually use these programs, pointing to a historical problem governments have faced in accurately assessing the value of their eGovernment strategies. In response to this need, the study discusses Accenture’s Public Sector Value model, a new tool designed to help government agencies analyse how they can deliver increased value at a time when budgets are shrinking. While not focused exclusively on eGovernment, the model’s principles can be applied to help governments better manage their online programs.
"High-performance governments meet their statutory obligations and citizen expectations in the most cost-effective manner possible, continually striving for more and better outcomes for less and less cost," said Vivienne Jupp, managing partner of Accenture’s Global eGovernment Services. "By extracting maximum value from every resource expended, they transform service delivery. That is why eGovernment is such an important lever for delivering value."
About the Research
Behaving as citizens and businesses, Accenture researchers in 22 selected countries used the Internet in an attempt to fulfill 206 service needs that might typically be provided by a national government. The 22 countries were Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The researchers accessed and assessed the Web sites of national government agencies to determine the quality and maturity of services and the level at which business can be conducted electronically with government. Services were assessed across 12 major sectors: agriculture; defense; eDemocracy; education; human services; immigration, justice and security; postal; procurement; regulation; participation; revenue and customs; and transport.
In addition to the eGovernment maturity research, Accenture conducted quantitative research on citizens’ perceptions and practices related to eGovernment in 12 countries. The citizen survey was conducted by an independent market research company, Lansdowne Market Research (part of the Millward Brown Group), from Jan. 5 through Jan. 23, 2004. The 12 countries sampled were Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Four hundred regular Internet users were surveyed in each country (with the exception of the United States, where 600 regular Internet users were surveyed). Regular Internet users were defined as individuals who used the Internet at least once a week from any location.
Polls were conducted via telephone, using random-digit dialing. Poll respondents in each country included Internet users only; the survey results do not represent a sample of the entire population of Internet users and non-users alike.
 Quotas were set to match the known profile of regular users in each country.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilise the right people, skills, and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With approximately 90,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$11.8 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2003. Its home page is www.accenture.com.