Brits vote ‘yes’ to e-government services

Ofcom, the government telecoms regulator, has today said more and more Brits are using the internet to access public services.

The report offers more detail on research referenced by chief executive Ed Richards earlier this week, when he said half of those without broadband don't want it.

Ofcom surveyed over 4,000 UK adults, finding half had internet access and with others living in so-called "multiple deprivation areas," defined by a range of factors, including economic, social and housing issues.

Ofcome found almost half had used the internet to access information about government or local council services, or completed a government form or process online in the last year.

Nearly half (42 per cent) said they had looked for information online about a government or local council service or used online service provided for paying tax or registering for Child Tax Credits online.

But this percentage rose to 55 per cent among those who had internet at home. By contrast, only 15 per cent of people from areas of multiple deprivation had used similar information or services online.

Most of those surveyed said the internet made it easier to engage in citizen participation activities, such as contacting an MP or signing a petition.

But, compared to 60 per cent of the general population and 70 per cent on those surveyed online, less than half (42 per cent) of people in areas of multiple deprivation interviewed agreed the internet made citizen participation easier and 20 per cent disagreed.

Despite the majority showing support for extending central and local government resources and services online, Ofcom's survey also found a lack of awareness among every survey group over what was being made available online.

Among the online sample interviewed, 31 per cent were unaware of online citizen participation opportunities. And this lack of awareness increased to 72 per cent amongst those in areas of multiple deprivation.

Almost half (46 per cent) of those from multiple deprivation areas added that they did not sufficiently trust the internet for carrying out civic activities, and 40 per cent said that they lacked the confidence to participate.

At the same time, Ofcom said a recurring theme throughout the research was a desire to retain traditional methods of contact, where 33 per cent of the online user sample still said would rather deal with someone face-to-face. This increased to 63 per cent among those living in areas of multiple deprivation.

The survey findings are likely to be seen to support plans unveiled recently by Lord Carter in his interim "Digital Britain" report, which pledged universal broadband access for all.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.