A recent report by the European Commission takes a holistic approach to the measurement of e-government performance in Europe (eGovernment Benchmark report: ‘Delivering on the European Advantage?’, ‘How European governments can and should benefit from innovative public services’). The study uses mystery shopping techniques to recreate citizens’ journeys through government services in each country of the EU. ‘Mystery citizens’ follow a set of life events (such as starting a new company), in seven different government areas.
The results reveal that citizen journeys through government institutions are rarely completed without interruptions, which causes unwanted headaches for both citizens and businesses. Moreover, public service delivery is characterised as a ‘disjointed’ series of transactional services, rather than an integrated user experience, organised around life events, as it should be.
Gaps in eGovernment Performance
A number of interesting gaps in e-government performance are also revealed between:
Believers and non-believers in online public services
Even though many Europeans have internet access to public services and the e-skills to use them, there is still a significant number of non-believers (38%), who refuse to request services online. A possible reason for this gap is the lack of user-centricity in public service delivery.
What is delivered and how it is perceived
An increasing number of public services are available online for constituents, but unfortunately residents do not perceive them user-friendly or usable, and this another reason why adoption of e-services lags behind. Citizens are used to receiving high level of user experience online, based on their interactions with the private sector – e-banking, e-retailers, etc. Since they do not yet observe the same ease of use during online public service delivery, their expectations have not been met.
Businesses and citizens
The quality of online public services for businesses is more mature, showing a 10 percentage points difference on average for all indicators.
National and local services
It seems that governments in Europe have mostly focused on implementing online services on a state level, leaving local governments and municipalities disconnected and lagging behind. What adds even more to the gap is that local services are even less user-centric (11 percentage points difference on average) than national services. The gap is even worse in smaller municipalities.
Country nationals and other EU citizens
One of the European Union’s main advantages for EU citizens and businesses is the ease of moving, trading, or working in any other EU country. Surprisingly, cross-border online services are 30 percentage points behind public services for country nationals. It is rarely possible to make transactions online, or to organise online your moving, working, or opening a company in another EU country. The gap leaves citizens and businesses, who plan on undertaking activities cross-border, with an unnecessary headache.
Small and large countries
Smaller and medium-sized European countries have reached a better performance in public service delivery online. Perhaps their size allow for an easier centralisation and management of of the implementation of online services.
Digital natives and non-skilled users
Even though digital improvements in services will certainly benefit a high number of citizens, it is still important to take into account the digitally non-developed regions and members of EU societies.
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