Tuesday, March 24, 2009

British vote 'yes' to egovernment

A study of 4,000 UK adults has found that 42 percent had used the internet to access information about government or local council services, or completed a government form or process online in the last year.

This shot up to 55 percent amongst adults with home internet access.

The study, conducted by OfCom also indicated that,
More than 70 per cent of those we surveyed online (and 60 per cent of the general population) said the web had made it easier to engage in citizen participation activities, such as contacting an MP or signing a petition.

But despite an increase in web-based activities, many people still want to keep traditional methods of contact.

For example, 33 per cent of those we surveyed online would rather deal with someone face to face, such as when contacting their MP.

However in areas of 'multiple deprivation', where people are more likely to be experiencing poverty, low employment, high crime, poor health and less access to services,
More than 70 per cent in those areas were also unaware of online citizen participation opportunities, almost half did not sufficiently trust the internet for these activities and 40 per cent said they lacked confidence to participate in citizen activities online.

In other people, poor and less educated people (who presumably also have less access to the internet) are less likely to realise the benefits they can receive from egovernment, trust the internet or be confident online participants.

These findings suggest that alongside education and employment access improvements, improving access to internet services can improve participation in egovernment - which makes sense to me.

They also suggest, in my view, that the internet is a great supplement and mechanism for expanding participation, but doesn't replace the need for face-to-face and phone services.

Finally the findings also suggested to me that, at least in the UK, the digital divide may still be a very wide one indeed, hence their initiative to roll out 100Mb broadband as a basic service alongside electricity, sewage and water supply.

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