Some comments upon my university Transfer Report by a lecturer with experience in local government suggested that I might not have been clear enough in my reasons for wanting channels measured. So I though it was time to go through it again.
The central government targets for electronic government have pushed central and local government towards service delivery channels facilitated by information technology i.e. self-service web sites and call centres.
Is this a bad thing? It is if you aren’t confident in using these channels e.g. are elderly, have certain disabilities, poor or poorly educated – so the minority communities are potential excluded by the digital divide! Many libraries and other facilities provide access to the Internet and free training is available but many citizens aren’t going to feel able to use them nor are all transactions suitable for all people for delivery in this manner, some prefer an element of discretion or confidence or mediation.
The initial costs of establishing electronic services are expensive so a postcode lottery between large , small, rich and poor local authorities is a potential outcome.
Why do we need to measure channel usage? It is only by measuring usage that we can monitor change in usage, if we further collect feedback from that channel it may be possible to identify the reasons for change, in comparison with the other channels.
Why do we need a channel strategy? If we are to serve citizens we need to identify how, where and when they wish that service to occur. If we are measuring the quantity and quality of that service we can plan the delivery or extension of those channels to suit citizen needs and provider costs. We can budget how different services will be provided for by their usage and potentially assist migration by those who are able to use them to more efficient channels.
With over half of Internet users banking online, there is an increasing opportunity for government to follow this trend but even with those established statistics it is clear that the non-Internet users who have yet to trust online services still need to be catered for, many of which will expect face-to-face service.
My argument is that only by measuring and collating feedback from citizens can one have a strategy and only with a strategy can one hope for successful channel migration or management.