Trust in e-govt growing, but still a challenge

Customers of e-government are growing in their trust of the medium, though there is still some scepticism over security online and over the use of the data submitted to government departments online.

Customers of e-government are growing in their trust of the medium, though there is still some scepticism over security online and over the use of the data submitted to government departments online.

This is the indication of a survey conducted late last year. An updated survey is in progress, but results will not be in their final form until December. This, e-government unit representative Laura Sommer hints, can be expected to show increasing levels of e-government use and confidence.

It is hard to determine the true parameters of uptake of e-government services until measures of trust are made and improved, Sommer says. “People gain trust through positive experiences.”

With regard to the medium, the overall 2002 survey, of 1000 citizens shows only 31% consider it completely safe to use the internet to provide personal information – though 71% reported that they had used the internet at least once in the month preceding the survey, and 40% had used e-government services.

Beyond the link itself, there is still evident anxiety about “where the information goes and [which agency] gets which bit,” Sommer says, particularly in environments where several agencies may be collaborating on handling a user query or transaction, invisibly behind a single electronic portal.

Work needs to be done on making this plain and further consultation with users and prospective users is needed, Sommer says. She asked during her Govis speech for input from the audience there and in the longer term.

A communications programme should be put in place giving users the message about how government could be trusted online and what procedures were in place to protect a user’s privacy, said one member of the audience.

Another pointed out that the question of a public’s trust of its government went far beyond what the e-government unit is doing. In New Zealand a general culture of respect for privacy has been engendered and this still influences the views of most people, said another.

Use of e-government services, not surprisingly increases with user income and education leve, though there is evidence that use by households with a total income of less than $30,000 a year is growing, Sommer says.

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