With so many people now digitally connected, why are large numbers of citizens still failing to use eGovernment services? And what can be done to improve take-up as Europe strives to meet the objectives of the EU’s Digital Agenda?

The recently published European Commission Benchmark Measurement on EU eGovernment Services 2012 produced by Capgemini reveals that only 46% of Europe’s internet population uses online public services. This finding is based on a survey of 28,000 citizens targeting the internet population of 32 countries.

It suggests that 54% of people fully able to use the internet are not comfortable with using it for eGov services. They are, instead, wedded to traditional channels for their contact with government services. While a growing number of these citizens indicate a desire to shift to online channels, there remains a significant proportion of overall internet users (38%) unwilling to use eGov services. These are referred to in the EC Benchmark report as the ‘non-believers’.

So what can be done to turn non-believers into eGov believers?

Some citizens are simply unaware of what public services they can access online. The report puts a figure of 21% of non-believers in this category, with many of them being students or other young people who have good digital skills. This points to a need for considerably more communication or run the risk of digital exclusion. Social media, particularly, amongst digitally savvy students, could help to increase awareness.

An even bigger percentage of the non-believers (80%) say they are just ‘unwilling’ to use eGov services and many of them prefer face to face contact above the online channel. This is despite the fact that 62% of them use the internet on a daily basis. Governments should focus on increasing customer centricity, improving service design by mixing channels and optimizing personalisation, building trust through social engagement and possibly legislation to make the online channel the only channel through which to engage with their services.

Currently, however, whilst the use of both social media and mobile is increasingly ubiquitous for personal or commercial activities, governments have been slow in exploiting these new channels. Digital inclusion demands that this process is speeded up.
To find out more about the national strategies for converting non-believers to eGov, download the 2012 report here.