The use of e-government facilities in Britain is increasing, having grown from 8% of adults in 2002 to 13% in 2003, but it still lags far behind the global average of 31%, according to a new 'Government Online' study from market information group, TNS.
Despite having one of the largest proportions of internet users worldwide and advanced internet access technology, Britain was ranked 23rd out of 31 countries surveyed for usage of e-government facilities, with countries including Germany (26% of adults using e-government facilities), France (35%), the US (44%), and Canada (51%) having much higher take-up rates for e-government services. Scandinavian countries still lead the field in e-government usage, with more than six out of ten adults in Denmark (63%) and Norway (62%) using government services online.
It is, however, encouraging to see that levels of use of e-government in Britain are increasing. In contrast to Britain, growth in the use of e-government has slowed in many markets, particularly in America (from 43% of adults in 2002 to 44% in 2003) and Germany (from 24% to 26% over the same period). In Singapore, usage levels have remained static at 53% and levels have decreased in Turkey (from 13% in 2002 to 9% in 2003), suggesting weakening demand for - or perhaps a degree of dissatisfaction with - accessing and supplying government information online.
One of the prime objectives for government organisations, at both a national and local level, has been to encourage users to provide personal information and make transactions online. However, interaction with government worldwide is still primarily for citizens to access information rather than to provide it. At a global level, almost one quarter of e-government users (24%) use the service to 'seek information' with only 9% of adults using e-government services to 'provide personal information' or to 'make online payments' (8%).
Despite having a relatively low use of e-government, Britain has one of the highest proportions of adults who feel that providing personal information online to government is safe. Some 30% of adults in Britain perceive the use of e-government to be safe compared to 18% in France, 17% in Spain, and 16% in Germany.
"While Britain has achieved important growth in the uptake of e-government services in 2003, the findings show that Britain is still a long way behind the global average," said Susannah Quick, director for TNS's polling, social and government division. "Large amounts of investment by the government are likely to have contributed to this growth but there is still a long way to go in order to bring Britain in line with levels of e-government usage in other markets."