Social inclusion and digital exclusion

Some interesting statitics are raised in a recent paper in the awsome sounding European Journal of ePractice. many of the papers are quite accessible (for European academic papers) but this particular one is written by Professor Paul Foley who I know from De Montfort University (but that’s not the reason I’m using it, its because he’s made practical use of some available statistics!)

The paper is entitled “Realising the transformation agenda: enhancing citizen use of eGovernment“. A number of quotations are appropriate, but read the paper!

Page 7.

Willingness to use electronic channels is strongly linked to age – older people are less inclined to use digital technologies than younger people. This has important implications for service designers. Strategies requiring channel migration to significantly reduce the use of (or possibly close down) conventional channels in order to yield major efficiency gains will compromise inclusiveness. New channel uptake will have to be targeted at those with the greatest propensity to migrate and traditional channels will have to continue to be made available to older people and others unwilling to migrate. Service designers will have to be aware of the channel preferences of their users and develop channel strategies accordingly.

This approach does not have to result in a trade-off between efficiency and inclusion objectives. The two are not mutually exclusive; efficiency gains are possible by transforming back-office processes and seamlessly integrating the right mix of channels together to deliver a more effective and inclusive service.

In the Omnibus survey respondents who stated they were willing to deal with government electronically were also asked what type of activities they would be willing to undertake. Ninety per cent are willing to use electronic channels to obtain information about government or services. However, willingness reduces with the sophistication of activities – three quarters are willing to book appointments online and around 60 per cent are willing to make payments to government online.

Along with three paragraphs from page 12.

It is sometimes hypothesised that those who are the most frequent users of government services are also the least likely to use the new electronic service delivery channels. This hypothesis was tested and found to be unsubstantiated by the survey. No statistical association between willingness to use electronic channels to deal with government and general contact frequency with government was found.

This is further illustrated when the sophistication of eGovernment activities on the Internet are compared with the sophistication of general activities undertaken on the Internet. Over 90 per cent of eGovernment web site visitors who have used the Internet to send an email have not sent an email to government. Over three quarters or eGovernment users that have bought something online have not made a payment online to government.

However, a quarter of non-users did not choose one of the potential benefits presented to them as a possible catalyst to start accessing eGovernment web sites. This highlights a sizeable segment of the online population who are not yet convinced of the benefits of using government web sites.

European Journal of ePractice · http://www.epracticejournal.eu 12 Nº 4 · August 2008 · ISSN: 1988-625X

This would suggest that we are still a long way from pushing at an open e-door!

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