The full title of this would be – “what’s the use of benchmarks if you don’t change anything?” This is stimulated by a post by Steven Clift on his newswire in response to the latest Pew Internet results.
Steve asks questions about the result to a Pew question, which is:
“Overall, when you have a question, problem, or task that requires contact with your local, state or federal government, which method of contact do you prefer most?…Calling on the phone, visiting in person, writing a letter, visiting a website, sending email [ Q.14 ]
Today – Aug 2003
35% Calling on the phone – 38%
20% Visiting in person – 15%
11% Writing a letter – 15%
10% Visiting a website – 17%
18% Sending email – 9%
1% Some other way (Vol.) – 1%
4% Never contact government (Vol.) – 4%
1% Don’t know – 1%
Note from seven years ago that the most preferred way to contact government has sending an e-mail up 8% and visiting a web site down 7%. Very interesting. So for those governments and elected officials who have deleted their e-mail address from their website and replaced it with only a web form, please take note. Also interesting is a 5% increase in those who prefer to visit government in-person. Must be the free coffee.”
The issue I see with the Pew Internet results is that whilst they show the channel shift, they don’t help to explain it. They show usage of the web site dropping, whilst face-to-face and email increase. Without satisfaction ratings to reinforce the data, I’d assume that this was as a result of web site delivery failure and citizens falling back on email and face-to-face to get a service completed. But, that can only ever be an assumption without some data to support it.
The figures shown are for the USA, which I personally find quite shocking if UK e-government is modelled on that, it potentially shows a near-complete failure of e-government with a drift away from web to existing channels. Email might as well be face-to-face, it requires a lot of manual handling.