E-government better received in India than globally: TNS study

MUMBAI: The global market information group Taylor Nelson Sofres plc or TNS has come out with its third Government Online Study - GO Study 2003 - which is a marketing information report that provides global and national benchmarks relating to citizen uptake of government services online.

According to the new research, while worldwide growth in public use of e-government saw a slump in year-to-date November 2003 compared to 2002, India displayed an optimistic appetite.

According to the study, the use of e-government services worldwide has grown by 11 per cent over the past 12 months, which is a downturn from the 15 per cent growth achieved in the year to November 2002.

The annual study, conducted across 32 markets, shows that e-government use rates have slowed in the past year and suggests that strategies to increase use are generally taking more time than anticipated to impact on Internet users.

However, India has illustrated a slightly brighter picture.

Being in the high penetration zone among the countries surveyed, India shows an upward trend in the use of government's online services in the past 12 months with a significant increase from 2002 figures.

40 per cent of adults for SEC A and B who live in the eight major metropolitan cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune) and are regular Internet users have accessed Government Online over the last 12 months, an increase from 31 per cent in 2002.

All the same, the Indian results are neither directly comparable to 2002 data nor to the global average since in India, only Internet users were interviewed.

TNS director Alison Dexter comments, "While the use of e-government services continues to grow, the rate of increase has slowed, suggesting that more needs to be done to increase momentum and encourage further online use. Improved Internet access, enhanced connection speeds, marketing and communications and website functionality are likely to be instrumental in achieving this, but one of the main challenges still facing governments is to convince existing and potential users that it is safe to provide personal details online."

"At a time when members of the public are increasingly turning to the Internet as an information resource, there is also growing concern about access to personal information by hackers and spam mailers. Governments around the world need to allay public fears by communicating the security measures which are in place to prevent access to personal details so that confidence is grown," Dexter adds.

One of the prime objectives for governments worldwide has been to encourage users to provide personal information and make transactions online. However, according to the study, interaction with government is still primarily to access rather than to provide information.

In India (data not directly comparable to global figures), Internet users seem to have accessed government services online for a variety of purposes. The major Government Online use amongst Internet users remains for seeking information, with an increase from 2002 (29 per cent from 23 per cent). Downloading increased in usage in 2003 (14 per cent from 10 per cent in 2002).

Information seeking includes getting information from a Government website and for printing Government forms which you have then sent by post or fax, for instance, a tax form to claim a government rebate.

Other usage such as, providing personal or household information to the Government as in completing and lodging a tax form, applying for a service, change address, paying for Government services or products involving the use of a credit card or bank account number (for rates, driving license, recycle bins, traffic fines) and using the Internet to express a point of view or participate in community consultations with Government, have remained relatively the same as in 2002.

Amongst Internet users, incidence of Government Online is strongest among 35 - 44 year olds (46 per cent) and 25 - 34 year olds (45 per cent), although usage in all age brackets increased. Usage by those less than 25 years old increased from 28 per cent to 35 per cent in 2003, and among those aged 25-34 years usage increased from 36 per cent to 45 per cent of all Internet users. Male Internet users also remain more likely to use Government Online (46 per cent) than females (30 per cent), and usage by male has increased (from 31 per cent in 2002).

Among Internet users, those aged 25-34 years and 35 - 44 years were more likely to use all Government Online services than the other age brackets. Those with university or postgraduate qualifications are also more likely to be higher users too.

One key factor limiting the release of personal information to local government is the perceived security of online information. The study also points out that perceptions of safety have not improved in the past year, despite an increase in the number of Internet users.

When asked as to how safe would they feel about using the Internet to provide the Government with this sort of personal information, there is equilibrium among people who feel safe (49 per cent) and unsafe (49 per cent). The perceptions of 'safe' are higher amongst Internet users aged under 25 years (53 per cent), and decreases gradually with age. Internet users with tertiary qualification (either vocational or at university) are more likely to consider it 'safe' to provide Government with personal information online. Perceptions of safety are high among downloaders (49 per cent) and information seekers (50 per cent).

The Global Overview

Globally, the study reveals that Scandinavian countries still lead the field in e-government use, with more than six out of 10 adults in Denmark (63 per cent) and Norway (62 per cent) using government services online. In contrast, many central European markets have much lower levels of e-government use - just one per cent of adults in Bulgaria and only six per cent in Hungary and Poland use online government services.

Growth in the use of e-government has slowed in many markets, particular in America (from 43 per cent of adults in 2002 to 44 per cent in 2003) and Germany (from 24 per cent to 26 per cent over the same period). In Singapore, usage levels have remained static at 53 per cent and levels have decreased in Turkey (from 13 per cent in 2002 to nine per cent in 2003) suggesting weakening demand for accessing and supplying government information online.

However, in other markets, typically where the use of e-government is already well established, the outlook is more positive. The biggest increases in use are in the Netherlands (from 41 per cent in 2002 to 52 per cent in 2003), Denmark (from 53 per cent to 63 per cent over the same period), Finland (from 49 per cent to 58 per cent) and France (from 25 per cent to 35 per cent), all of which have experienced significant growth.

The Government Online (GO) Study

The Government Online (GO) Study was undertaken by the Polling, Social and Corporate division of TNS, via telephone and face-to-face interviews with 31,823 people across 32 countries or territories between July and October 2003.

The report compares global differences in levels of adoption of government services online from information seeking to transact and specifically examines perceptions of safety when dealing with this delivery channel.

Key questions that the study seeks to answer are:

* What are the levels of Government Online usage?

* How is Government Online being used?

* Are safety concerns a barrier to Government Online uptake?

* How does Government Online uptake compare to Internet use globally?

The participating countries were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Faroe Islands, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, and USA. All country results have been weighted to be representative of their country population.

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