Safety concerns slow e-government uptake
27th November 2001 (The Star's TechCentral)

Safety is the greatest concern held by those using online government services, an international study has revealed.

Between July and September this year, the Social and Government division of Taylor Nelson Sofres polled 29,077 people in 27 countries to gage the uptake of web based government services.

According to Wendy Mellor, Research Director, Social and Government, Taylor Nelson Sofres, Scandinavia dominated the top positions with Norway achieving the highest level of both e-government and Internet usage. Australia came in equal sixth, alongside the Netherlands and Hong Kong.

It would appear that most users of online government services purely information seekers, and the research indicates that the percentage of people using the Web for government transactions roughly equates with those performing other transactions online.

However, the survey revealed 64 per cent of respondents felt too "unsafe" to provide details such as credit card numbers over the Internet. There was also a strong correlation between those countries where the Internet was perceived as safe for transactions generally and those with the highest rates of online government transactions (Finland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Canada and Estonia).

Across the world, safety concerns are highest among women aged 25 to 44.

The survey also found a predictable correlation between Internet usage and age, with 25 to 34 year olds the most likely to access government information online, and a slight gender bias, with males more likely to access government services via the Internet.

"The information has tremendous implications for governments in Australia and worldwide," said Mellor. "It is the first quantification of community uptake of online government information."

Mellor believes the information will assist Governments in the development of online services, and the appropriate targeting of such services.

"We have established a series of benchmarks for the roll out of online government services," Mellor said. "Over 50 percent of Australian's now regularly use the Internet either at work or at home, it represents a fantastic vehicle for providing government information and performing transactions."

While Mellor said future studies would be more likely to reveal further correlations between demographics and Internet usage, at this stage she said the strongest link between Internet usage and access to government information was education.

"We found that more highly educated people were more likely to access information and perform transactions via the Web," she said. - ZDNet Asia