Improving citizen satisfaction is the key factor driving the development of online government services, and is much more significant than the ever-present pressure to reduce costs, according to a study by management consulting firm, Accenture.
In compiling the study, e-Government Leadership: Engaging the Customer, Accenture interviewed over 140 senior executives from government agencies throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Additional quantitative and qualitative research was also conducted to assess the breadth and depth of e-government practices in 22 countries.
When asked to select factors that drive development of online government services for citizens, some 93% of government executives cited 'improving citizen satisfaction', and 83% selected 'customer demands for new and better services'. Some 77% also cited 'the need to meet government performance targets', while only 51% cited 'pressure to reduce costs'.
"The mantra we increasingly hear from government executives is 'give the people what they want'," noted Steve Rohleder, global chief executive for Accenture's government practice. "As governments focus on tailoring online services to meet the needs of specific customer segments - just as businesses do - their e-government programmes will be more successful, and deliver a greater return on investment."
Accenture's report also ranks the 22 countries in terms of the sophistication of their online services, taking into account a variety of factors including how well each government's services incorporate customer relationship management (CRM) practices, as well as the level of maturity and sophistication with which each government delivers electronic services.
For the third year running, Canada topped the list in terms of overall maturity. According to the study, Canada's initiative is differentiated by its customer service vision, its methods for measuring success of services, its broad, integrated approach to offering government services through multiple service delivery channels, and a cross-agency approach to online services.
Furthermore, the Canadian government has placed its citizens and businesses at the core of its initiative, identifying services for individual customer segments, as government executives view e-government as an evolutionary process that is part of a broader service transformation effort.
The governments of Singapore, the USA, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, and France, have all established customer service objectives, and their portals offer valuable and convenient online services to their citizens.
For example, last year, Belgium launched an online portal that targets services to specific customer segments (citizens, businesses and civil servants), incorporating a feature that can be used by the visually impaired to access information online.
In terms of service availability, The Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Norway, Italy and Malaysia all have basic portals, built with the aim of making as many services available online as quickly as possible. These countries have broad electronic service adoption targets, with a limited number of sophisticated transaction capabilities, and are focused on their customers, with individual agencies taking initial steps to work collaboratively to offer online services.
"The most important driver for government transformation strategies is usually - and should be - improving citizen service," said John Kost, vice president for technology research firm, Gartner Inc. "In the short term, it is not likely to save money. But, in the long term, effective e-government strategies will improve citizen self-sufficiency and reduce the overall cost of government."
"Driving the take-up of new electronic services beyond current levels must be a high priority for governments if they expect to realise the benefits of e-government," concluded Vivienne Jupp, Accenture's managing partner for global e-government services. "This means developing marketing strategies to build greater awareness of those online services that have the potential for the greatest use."