online - especially for electronic voting - but only 15% of the UK public
have actually used the internet or other digital channels to transact with
government or local councils in the last 12 months, according to KPMG
The report reveals the importance of raising awareness of those services
already available electronically. It shows a marked increase both in
internet access and in the appetite for conducting local and national
government transactions online, but little sign of an actual breakthrough
in usage. For example, despite one third of people claiming that they
would now be prepared to renew their TV licence through digital channels,
only 2% have actually done so, and almost 40% of these say this is simply
because they were unaware that they could.
Martin Wilson, industry leader for public services at KPMG Consulting,
commented: 'The government is committed to getting all public services
online by 2005. But if this is to lead to a genuine improvement in the
lives of the British public, the government will need to make people aware
of what's available and encourage them to use it.'
If it were widely available, the most popular online service of all would
be e-voting (in both local council and general elections) - public
willingness to vote electronically is now up to 38% of the population from
29% in 2001. The greatest increase in demand for a particular service is
for the facility to book GP appointments electronically - up from 26% in
2001 to 37% in this year's survey.
The preference for call centres has increased dramatically, and they are
now the single most popular means by which people would like to access
public services in the future, with 30% of the population listing this as
their top choice for access in three years time (up from 11% in 2001 and 4%
in 2000). However, nearly 3 in 10 (28%) still prefer a human face when
using services - opting for one-stop shops (15%), post offices (10%) or
libraries (3%). This emphasises the need for e-government to be broadly
defined and to integrate all the possible channels, not just provide a
communication channel for those with PCs at home.
Although demand for internet access remains high, the survey found that the
proportion of people wishing to transact with government and local councils
via interactive digital TV plummeted to 4% from 21% in 2000. Report author
David Gardner of KPMG Consulting said: 'Around 40% of adults now have
access to digital TV, but the government faces a major challenge to
convince them to use it for transactional as well as entertainment
purposes. Any public education campaign must go further than merely
raising awareness of digital channels. Actively encouraging new ways of
using familiar technology and devices will also be necessary.'
The report makes a number of specific recommendations for government,
- focus first on getting online the services that most people use - for
instance, car tax renewal - and promote them widely now
- respond to the public's enthusiasm for online voting by promoting this
effectively following the handful of pilots in the local government
elections in early May
- tackle the existing barriers to online access, notably the lack of
equipment and the limited awareness and understanding of digital channels
Mr Wilson added: 'We hope our recommendation for a public education
campaign will help to deliver Britain's e-government programme, leading to
the greater use of digital channels for public services provision.'
The full report is available here .