Citizens Taking Government Business Online

More than half of American adults with online access visited a government Web site in the past year, according to the National Technology Readiness Survey, but more surprising is the number of people who did business with governments online.

The 2001 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS), which was co-sponsored by the Center for e-Service at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and Rockbridge Associates, Inc., found that 55 percent of adult Internet users visited a government Web site in the past year. Fifty percent visited a state or local Web government site, while 33 percent visited a federal government Web site.

It’s no surprise that citizens are finding ways to get government information online. The IRS Web site makes an annual appearance among the Web’s top properties as tax time approaches. But the NTRS found that 21 percent of adult Internet users had not only been to a government Web site, but had actually conducted business with a government entity online. This is a higher percentage of users than had conducted bank transactions online (20 percent), paid a credit card bill online (15 percent) or traded stocks online (10 percent).

“The percentage of people using the Internet to obtain government information, pay taxes, apply for permits, and conduct other business is surprisingly high, especially at the state and local levels,” said Roland Rust, director of the Center for e-Service. “This research suggests that e-government is in many ways even more prevalent than e-commerce — e-service appears to be an increasingly attractive alternative to standing in line at a government office.”

Use of E-Government in Past Year
(Nov. 2001)
Activity All Online
Males Females
Visited some government Web site 55% 60% 50%
Visited state/local government Web site 50% 54% 46%
Visited federal government Web site 33% 36% 29%
Conducted business with
some government online
21% 27% 15%
Conducted business with
local/state government online
16% 23% 10%
Conducted business with
federal government online
11% 13% 10%
Source: National Technology Readiness Survey

The NTRS also uncovered a pattern that was seen in the adoption of non-government online transactions. While men and women were equally likely to visit government Web sites, men were more likely to actually do business with the government online. For example, the study reveals that while 23 percent of men had conducted state or local government business online, only 10 percent of women had gone to the Web for such transactions. If the pattern hold these numbers should draw closer in the future.

“Now that e-government is becoming more important, governments can learn from private sector players to be successful on the Web,” said Charles Colby, president of Rockbridge Associates. “Governments can get more people to use their Web sites by ensuring their sites are user-friendly and secure. They can also use savvy marketing to articulate the many benefits of doing government business online.”

A 27-country survey on e-government by Taylor Nelson Sofres found that Norway had the highest level of e-government usage at 53 percent over the 12 months prior to the survey. At 63 percent, Norway also had the highest rate of Internet usage.

Compared to Internet use in general, which is strongly correlated with age and favors the young, e-government usage is strongest among 25 to 34 year olds and plateaus between the ages of 35 and 54. Like the NTRS, the Taylor Nelson Sofres survey found men are more likely to use e-government than women, but the gender differences aren’t strong globally.

Taylor Nelson Sofres found that 19 percent of Internet users globally are e-government transactors, which is even higher than its global number of online product shoppers (19 percent).

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