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'PUBLIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGN ESSENTIAL TO CAPITALISE ON GROWING ENTHUSIASM FOR E-GOVERNMENT'

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Two thirds of the British population now want to access public services ...
Two thirds of the British population now want to access public services

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

Consulting's third annual benchmark survey entitled Is Britain on course

for 2005?

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,

including:

- 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 .

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