Change Management
May 7, 2012

The rise of e-government: Current trends and future prospects

The Internet is a key channel for public service delivery. Recent studies by EKOS and the Institute for Citizen-Centred Services show that the Internet has dramatically changed the way Ontarians interact with the government. “We are better serving Ontarians by creating more online options for accessing government services,” explains Minister of Government Services Ted McMeekin.

More online services are a key component in the province’s five-year IT strategy, Beyond e-Ontario. For e-government to reach its full potential, we have to understand recent trends and the factors that will influence the future success.

Online demand
The Information Highway 8 report by EKOS and the Citizens First 5 report by the Institute for Citizen-Centred Services show dramatic changes in the way Ontarians use the Internet to interact with the government.

Both studies point to a double-digit increase in the public’s use of the web for their most recent contact with the provincial government. Similarly, the Information Highway 8 results indicate that the majority of Ontario businesses identify the Internet or email as their preferred way of accessing key government information or services.

In 1999, over 35% of Information Highway respondents identifying the phone as the channel used in most recent contact with the government. The Internet/email was used by less than 20% of respondents. Today, the situation is quite different: the web has grown in popularity to the point where it is used almost as frequently as the phone or walk-in channels.

The range of government services the public chooses to access online has grown considerably. While services like downloading forms or information remain the most popular, 40% of Ontarians have used the Internet to pay income taxes, 21% to make a payment and 16% to apply for a program. Penetration levels for new online services in Ontario have been surprisingly high: 85% for business registration, 75% for birth certificates and, in key communities, newborn registration is well above 90%.

In terms of client satisfaction, the online channel is ranked highly by Ontario consumers – 69% satisfied, according to Information Highway 8, and 65% satisfied according to Citizens First 5. These results are well ahead of traditional channels such as mail and only slightly behind in-person service.

The rising popularity and satisfaction with the e-channel is particularly significant when one considers its relative cost. Accenture (2004) found that the cost of delivering web-based services was on average, a fraction of the costs associated with other channels. While similar findings have emerged from U.K. studies, it is important not to hinge business cases for e-government solely on cost reductions. Often, cost savings have proven to be more elusive than the convenience associated with self-service for citizens from home or business.

Strategies for success
It is not surprising to discover that 82% of Ontario households responding to Information Highway 8 feel that “greater emphasis on the use of IT by governments is a move in the right direction.” Similarly, the study found that the majority of businesses see the Internet as an effective method for transactions with government.

How then can government ensure the continued success of the online channel for service delivery? Some of the key strategic considerations are:

1. Narrow the digital divide. Home access to the Internet has grown dramatically in Ontario from 59% of households in 2000 to 83% in 2007. And business Internet access has increased from 68% in 2001 to 92% in 2007. However, as Statistics Canada notes in its Connecting With Canadians report, a digital divide still exists for certain segments of the population. Internet access is lower for the elderly and the poor (who are more likely to depend on the government for key services) and for those in rural and remote communities. The 2007 launch of the Rural Connections program will significantly increase the availability of affordable, high speed Internet in rural Ontario. This initiative, combined with the provision of free Internet access in public spaces such as libraries and community centers, will help narrow the digital divide.

2. The web is king for forms and information. Given the “self-service” convenience of the Internet for some users and the potentially low cost of administration associated with simple transactions, it is easy to understand why Ontario and other governments have made the vast majority of publications, forms, laws and regulations conveniently available online. This effort needs to be sustained and downloadable forms need to be gradually replaced by forms which are “fillable” online. Ontario’s Electronic Commerce Act recognizes the equivalency of electronic forms and documents.

3. Huge potential in more complex transactions. As noted by the OECD in its e-Government Imperative report, downloadable forms and information are just the start. Increasing numbers of Ontarians are using the Internet for more complex transactions such as paying taxes or applying for programs.

4. Successful e-government transactions often depend on multiple channels. Citizens First 5 reports that Canadians increasingly use more than one channel to access government services. Similarly, Information Highway 8 reports that over 40% of Ontarians who recently contacted the federal government used multiple channels. Approximately two thirds of respondents described this experience as positive. For complex services, the web is a complement to, not a substitute for, other channels. Citizens must have an ability to move seamlessly between channels.

5. Web 2.0 – supporting government communications and collaboration. Federal and provincial surveys indicate that there is significant support for government’s use of Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, social networking, etc.) to communicate with and consult citizens and employees. However, interest in these tools tends to be skewed to younger age groups and there is the potential for a new digital divide to open up around use of the new technology. Ontario has recently implemented a series of collaboration websites and blogs across the public service to allow employees to share ideas and jointly solve business problems.

6. Privacy and security are essential for confident online citizens. While there is evidence to suggest that citizens’ trust of government online services has increased in recent years, a significant proportion of Ontarians are still uncomfortable providing their credit card information online. This may explain the Citizens First 5 finding that over three quarters of Ontarians who used more than one channel to complete a transaction, preferred to complete the transaction by phone, in person or mail. While businesses have fewer reservations about using the web for confidential transactions, privacy and security protections are key to winning consumer trust and participation in future e-government initiatives.

7. Simpler easier-to-navigate government websites. Ontario, like most governments, has made significant efforts in recent years to improve the look and feel of its websites and to organize information into “life event bundles” which correspond closely to the public’s search patterns. It would appear that this has paid off: Information Highway 8 found that over 90% of consumers who visited an Ontario website reported success in finding the information they were looking for. Citizens First 5 points to the importance of well-designed websites – respondents who had trouble finding what they needed on government websites re

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Change Management
 
In the show today, J. Richard Jones talks with Dean McKeown,...
 
Leadership, service delivery, change management, performance measurement, big data, transparency, digital...
 
The “Magic Loogie” scene is vintage Seinfeld. It is a pastiche...
 
Welcome to the fall edition of CGE. Since our last issue,...
 
We risk missing out on the potential “Artificial Intelligence” has to...
 
In the 5th century BC, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem....
 
From research to policy implementation, Canadian public servants possess the knowledge...
 
We all ask why governments fail, often spectacularly, to carry out...
 
Citizens are embracing technology as it rapidly changes. The experience that...
 
Federal efforts to increase the use of data to inform and...
 
Emerging technologies are getting faster and smarter. Cognitive capabilities, robotics and...
 
Canadian Government Executive is honoured to have Michael Wernick, Clerk of...
 
On a recent visit to Ottawa, I had the opportunity to...
 
Does your organization have a very narrow view of what digital...
 
With businesses and government agencies increasingly operating in a highly information-based...
 
Canadian Government Executive media through its upcoming TechGov event is providing the...
 
The answer my friends is blowin’ in the wind … BOB...
 
There’s no shortage of organizations claiming to have a digital transformation...
 
Laskey Hart guest hosts CGE Radio this week with a summary...
 
Rules and accountability are helpful in developing and standardizing processes but...
 
Canada’s top soldier said the Armed Forces continue to be locked...
 
It’s a common notion that young workers born in the mid-1990s...
 
In order to find out which strategies and priorities CFOs are...
 
A small but rapidly growing number of businesses have started hiring...
 
As populations grow and age, the demand for services increases. As...
 
Computer software company Adobe, has migrated more than 11 million pages...
 
Here’s some bad news for organizations contemplating projects that have something...
 
The facility of a top-secret military communications group in Borden, Ontario...
 
As the adoption rate of big data technologies among Canadian companies...
 
By Craig Killough In March of this year, the Prime Minister’s Advisory...
 
Written by  Roxanne Descôteaux When I first became a manager over...
 
Every four years, on average, Canadians elect a government from among...
 
It’s no secret that LEAN has demonstrated great success in the...
 
There have been a great number of change initiatives in the...
 
If you ask any municipal Chief Administrative Office (CAO) across Canada...
 
Change is difficult. The psychology of loss aversion means we are...
 
After serving in the public service for 24 years, Norman shares...
 
The federal government, through Shared Services Canada, is focusing on integrating...
 
The Centre for Creative Leadership has published a paper called Public...
 
“Finding efficiencies” might be an overused cliché, but allied defence forces...
 
Are you overwhelmed by your to-do list? Does so much of...
 
The idea of a merger of DFAIT and CIDA is not...
 
If your internal planning and reporting systems seem “archaic,” how do...
 
Strange as it may seem, a majority of us would opt...
 
What characterizes successful change management? Six leaders and leadership teams will...
 
The British Columbia Public Service is vying for talent in an...
 
In times of change, middle managers make the difference. Sandwiched between...
 
Once again, Policy Horizons Canada has prepared exclusively for CGE a...
 
Like an athletic coach, an independent project reviewer understands what it...
 
In October, Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council, received CAPAM’s...
 
As young public servants, members of the national Federal Youth Network...
 
Canada’s North is at the forefront of unprecedented change and the...
 
Public sector reform can be like falling down a rabbit hole...
 
Transforming Government for the Future...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 “On any journey, it is important...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 How will Canada keep on top...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 So you think you’ve got it...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Consider the following recent history: Ontario...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.6 June 2007 Learning and development are best achieved...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 Peter Harder retired recently. He served...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 Karen Ellis est vice-présidente de la...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Many leaders view change as an...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 The 2005 centennial celebration of the...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Crown relations with First Nations...
 
A strange paradox has emerged in the quest for Gov 2.0....
 
While the focus in recent years has been on Web 2.0...
 
How can an organization work seven times faster when it knows...
 
À titre d’employée de la fonction publique de l’Ontario (FPO), j’ai...
 
As an employee of the Ontario Public Service, I’ve been looking...
 
The 2011 federal election has focused on policy and leadership. But...
 
À l’instar de nombreux autres employeurs, la fonction publique de l’Ontario...
 
Like many employers, the Ontario Public Service (OPS) has a sizeable...
 
Unless you have been working in a silo, it is obvious...
 
Le problème actuel n’est pas seulement le départ à la retraite...
 
It’s not just that executives are about to retire – it’s...
 
Au cours des derniers mois, de nombreux fonctionnaires fédéraux ont dépoussiéré...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Most observers will be acutely aware...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 The biggest challenge facing government executives...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 Julius Caesar left us with one...
 
Don’t trust anyone over thirty, Jerry Rubin pronounced in 1967. Jerry,...
 
Wondering why it sometimes seems so blankety-blank hard to get anything...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Not long ago, an energetic web...
 
« Toutes choses étant, par une puissance immortelle, de près ou de...
 
Half a millennium since first contact between Aboriginal peoples and European...
 
In terms of performance measurement, incentives for success and penalties for...
 
Changer la culture des employés un outil à la fois Le...
 
Quote of the week “We manage our books really well and...
 
"All things by immortal power, Near and Far, Hiddenly To each...
 
The Internet is a key channel for public service delivery. Recent...
 
Quote of the week “What was clear when you visited some...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 When new policy collides with entrenched...
 
Quote of the week “(P)ublic service should be a career of...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Youth…still wasted on the young. It’s...
 
Quote of the week “Government can’t simply step into the void...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 When Pat Collins left Ottawa in...
 
Quote of the week “…civil servants may be intractable points of...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 By: Guy D’Aloisio, Mchel Laurendeau, V....
 
Quote of the week “…thinking government is necessarily the solution to...
 
Quote of the week “If there is gravy at city hall,...
 
Quote of the week “The IPAC DM/CAO survey…provides insight into your...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
In the show today, J. Richard Jones talks with Dean McKeown,...