Paying parking tickets may not be quite as exciting as buying the very latest fashions, but globally, the proportion of Internet users who have made transactions using government services online is equal to the proportion of users who made online shopping purchases.
In a 2002 study conducted among 31 countries in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region with almost 30,000 participants, Taylor Nelson Sofres found that 15 percent of Internet users have made an online government transaction – the same figure that have been found to make an online purchase at least once during the past 12 months. However, 19 percent made some type of e-government transaction in 2001, while e-commerce stayed the same at 15 percent.
Sweden had the highest percentage of online government transactions at 22 percent, followed by Estonia (21 percent), Denmark and Finland (20 percent each), and Norway (18 percent), while the global average for transacting is 7 percent, up 1 point from 2001.
Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden were among the countries with the highest levels of perceived online safety, ranging from 40 to 32 percent, compared to the global average of 23 percent of citizens who said that they feel safe disclosing personal information such as credit card and bank account numbers online. The global average was 14 percent in 2001.
Demographically, males and those under age 34, worldwide, are more likely to be unconcerned about e-government safety.
The countries with the highest concerns about safety in 2002 are Japan, with 90 percent of users expressing worry, followed by Germany (82 percent), France (76 percent), Taiwan (75 percent), and Italy (72 percent).
In 2002, 30 percent globally said that they had accessed government services online compared with 26 percent in 2001, with the highest usage in Sweden (57 percent of the population), Norway (56 percent), Singapore and Denmark (both with 53 percent), and the highest gains in Australia (from 31 percent to 46 percent), Turkey (from 3 percent to 13 percent), the Netherlands (from 31 percent to 41 percent), and the U.S. (from 34 percent to 43 percent).
Comparatively, Great Britain, Japan, Turkey, Poland, and Hungary were among the countries with the lowest levels of penetration at 15 percent or less. E-government usage in Japan fell from 17 percent to 13 percent between 2001 and 2002.
“The increase in the use of Government Online services at a global level suggests that the public see the Internet as a more acceptable means of getting involved in government activity at both national and local levels. However, significant differences exist between countries that may be due to awareness of services, perceptions of safety, relevance of the site to users, and access to the Internet, among others,” commented Wendy Mellor, director, Social and Government, Taylor Nelson Sofres.
Interestingly, the high figures of e-government usage in some of these countries geographically mirrors an early 2002 Eurobarometer report of countries with the highest proportion of Internet users: Sweden (66.5 percent), Denmark (59.4 percent), Holland (53.8 percent) and Finland (51.4 percent), with 35.7 percent of Swedes and 36.6 percent of Danes using the computer everyday.
E-government sites are most commonly used to search for information (24 percent of users) and to download information (11 percent of users). The increased use of government online services is primarily due to the rise in the proportion of people searching for information (from 20 to 24 percent during the 12 months to September 2002).
Mellor concludes, “While the growth in the use of e-government is encouraging, our research shows that the majority of this growth is from citizens searching for information online rather than making transactions or providing personal information to government. This may be due to perceived security risks but if the use of these services is to increase, messages about the safety of Government Online services need to be communicated effectively.”