Interacting with Government: Australians' use and satisfaction with e-government services - 2008

15 Jun 2009

Interacting with Government explores Australians’ use and satisfaction with e‑government services provided through the internet and telephone.

It investigates:

  • how people contact government by internet, telephone, in-person or mail
  • satisfaction with these means of contacting government, including reasons for satisfaction and dissatisfaction
  • reasons why people choose to use or not use e‑government services
  • preferences for future delivery of government services.

1.2 Major Findings

Four in five people use the internet and older Australians are increasingly doing so.

  • Four in five people use the internet, including most people under 44. The take-up rate among the older population is increasing, with three‑quarters of those aged 55 to 64, and two in five aged 65 or older, now internet users.

Access to broadband continues to grow.

  • Broadband access continues to increase, rising from 57% in 2006 to 68% in 2008.
  • Seven in ten of those living in metropolitan areas have a broadband connection compared with six in ten people in the rest of Australia.

Use of newer communication technologies is strong.

  • More than four in five people use newer communication technologies at least monthly. The most common are email, SMS, news feeds, instant messaging, social networking sites and blogs.
  • Some newer technologies offer government additional means of communication with non-internet users: three in ten people who do not use the internet use text messaging at least once a month.

Use of egovernment (internet and telephone) channels for government contact has continued to grow. Growth is being driven by increased use of the internet rather than the telephone. The internet is now the most common way people last made contact with government.

  • The number of people who use the internet to contact government continues to increase, although the rate of growth has slowed compared with previous years of this study. In 2008 nearly two-thirds of people had contacted government by internet at least once in the previous twelve months.
  • People using the internet to contact government are doing so more often. More than three in ten now use the internet for the majority (all or most) of their contact with government, double the rate reported in 2004–05.
  • Use of the internet for most recent contact with government has doubled since 2004–05. In 2008 the internet replaced contact in person as the most common way people had last made contact with government.
  • Levels remain static, at three in ten, for using the telephone for this most recent contact.
  • Younger people are more likely to use the internet to contact government, with those aged 25 to 34 having the highest rate of use. Growth has been strongest, however, in older age groups. Since 2004–05, rates have doubled for those aged 55 to 64 and tripled for those aged 65 or more.
  • More people would prefer to use the internet to contact government than actually do so. Since 2007 the internet has been the most preferred way to contact government. In 2008 the gap between preference and actual use still exists, but is decreasing.

Satisfaction with using the internet to contact government and with service delivery remains high.

  • The majority of people are satisfied with the ease of using the service, the ease of finding information and the outcome when dealing with government.
  • Those who use the internet to contact government continue to have the highest levels of satisfaction followed closely in 2008 by those who made contact in person. Those who used mail to contact government had the lowest levels of satisfaction.
  • Despite high satisfaction with using the internet to contact government, people continue to be less satisfied with the amount of time it takes to receive a reply to an enquiry made online. Focus groups also highlighted some areas for improvement. Commonly reported frustrations included difficulty in finding information and services, the language government websites use and not knowing if and when a response to email correspondence would be received.

Convenience continues to be a key factor in the decision to use an egovernment channel.

  • Convenience is the prime motivator for over four in five of those choosing to contact government by internet. The benefits mentioned include being able to use the internet at a time that suits, time savings compared with other options and the ability to avoid queues.
  • Convenience, particularly time savings in finalising a transaction, was also a major motivator for using the telephone to contact government. Specific features of the telephone service were also important. These include the speed and convenience of an automated system and the ability to interact with a ‘real person’ who could answer questions and explain things.

While contact with government in person is declining the proportion of people who say they do so because they have no alternative is increasing.

  • The proportion of people who make contact in person because they have no alternative has more than doubled from 2006 to 2008.
  • The main reasons for this lack of choice were needing to show or sign documents or believing they could only deal with the issue in person. Where contact in person is made by choice, convenience is the prime motivator for doing so, particularly for people in regional areas.

The potential for growth in the use of the internet to contact government remains strong. Three in five people could be encouraged to use the internet more often to contact government.

  • Those who could be encouraged to increase their use of the internet to contact government include those who currently do so, as well as those who had made no contact with government by internet in the previous twelve months.
  • The main factors that would encourage increased use of the internet to contact government include improvements to website usability and content as well as infrastructure improvements such as faster loading times.
  • Just over a quarter of people indicated they could not be encouraged to increase their use of the internet to contact government. However, a third of this group is already using the internet for all or most of their contact with government.

1.3 Conclusions

The internet is now an integral way of delivering government services.

  • The internet is now positioned as the main service delivery channel for Australians to interact with government, however considerable potential for growth remains. Most people who use the internet to contact government could be encouraged to increase their use. Older Australians are increasingly using the internet for contact with government.

Governments need to recognise that channel choice is driven by consumer convenience.

  • In setting and monitoring service delivery standards and practices government agencies need to appreciate that while security is an underlying issue for people, convenience is the dominant factor influencing the choice about how and when to contact government.
  • There continues to be a need for governments to provide the telephone and in-person channels as well as the internet.

E‑government will continue to evolve and grow.

  • Adoption of newer technologies means that changes in use and take-up of e‑government services are occurring quickly and are likely to continue to expand in the future. These changes, and the increasing blurring of boundaries between technologies, will present challenges for government service delivery.

Community expectations continue to grow as internet use increases.

  • Community expectations about how e-government services should be delivered are evolving rapidly as more people have direct experience with and opportunities for communicating with government using the internet and telephone.
  • Government agencies need to be aware that although high levels of satisfaction with the internet for contact with government have been maintained as internet use has increased, expectations and standards in this area are evolving.
  • Government agencies also need to be aware that community expectations for government service delivery are increasingly being shaped by experience with private sector services and that service delivery standards need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.
  • There is scope for further increasing the use of and satisfaction with e‑government services by addressing issues noted in this report.
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