Over the last 10-15 years of public sector development and due to the financial and economic crisis beginning in 2008, governments have been looking at how best to use information and communication technology (ICT) to improve the performance of public sector administrations. The use of ICT in public administrations and its impact on public governance (also known as egovernment) has enabled governments to automate a broad range of internal functions and processes. It has helped them improve business processes within public organisations and across organisational boundaries, making it possible for them to deliver high-quality services to users – whether citizens, businesses or government employees. Governments saw the use of ICT as the "silver bullet" that could finally resolve the lack of coherency in public service delivery, and at the same time free up resources through efficiency and effectiveness gains. However, governments later saw low adoption and use of e-government services (also known as low user take-up of e-government services) which are still far from satisfactory today.
A Paradigm Shift Towards Citizen Centricity
For many years the use of information and communication technology (ICT) has been seen as the "silver bullet" that could improve the performance of the public sector and its service delivery. However, the adoption and use of e-government services (also known as user take-up of e-government services) remain low and far from satisfactory today. This report will analyse why ICT has not proved to be the silver bullet governments hoped for and will showcase the approaches and good practices that OECD countries have used to address lagging user take-up. The historic focus on technology has overshadowed the organisational, structural, and cultural changes needed in the public sector. In the process of rendering internal government functions and processes efficient and effective, users were often forgotten. This lead to a significant change of focus and approach in the mid-2000s, from government centricity prioritising outcomes for governments, to user centricity prioritising outcomes for users of public services. A paradigm shift government centricity to user centricity raises the question of whether e-government activities contribute to the creation of broader public welfare: does e-government create welfare for all – meaning the public sector itself as well as its users? Shifting towards citizen centricity with the goal of increasing user take-up in order to create public welfare is about balancing outcomes (large user take-up and satisfaction) with improving the cost-effectiveness of the public sector as a whole.
Challenges to User Take-up
The paradigm shift towards user centricity has helped to focus governments’ attention on ensuring user take-up of e-government services. To understand the reasons why users utilise e-government services, one must understand the different preconditions for using those services. These are: access to infrastructure and equipment, provision of e-government services, awareness of service provision, organisation of services, outcomes of implementation, and trust. Access to, and provision of, e-government services are fundamental to the discussion of user take-up. Since the early 1990s, e-government has been largely driven by technology. The new opportunities technological development provided were used to improve government administrations and the quality and speed of service delivery. Improvements in the penetration of broadband and the development and the increased provision of sophisticated transaction-oriented and integrated services are factors that provide the prerequisites for increased user take-up. A number of socio-economic and demographic factors need to be taken into account. Age, gender, education, income, location, employment and occupation are telling the story that the younger, richer, better educated and urban-bound a person is, the more likely this person will use e-government services over more traditional service channels. Users distinguish between the types of services or function they are comfortable with accessing on line and those they prefer to handle via traditional channels, or for which a mixture of the two is most appropriate.
Country Approaches to Increasing User Take-up
Governments have chosen different approaches to increase user takeup of e-government services. Experience among OECD countries shows that the choice of approach depends on political priorities and organisational considerations, for example as part of public sector reform efforts. These considerations are often addressed through the reorganisation of responsibilities within the public sector and the redesign of internal processes and procedures to achieve improved coherence and simplification. The balance between (public sector) internal and organisational considerations, and external outcomedriven considerations are reflected in the variety of approaches seen across OECD countries. The identified types of approaches identified are: an organisational and administrative simplification approach; a situation-bound approach; a participatory and inclusive approach; and a marketing and channel management approach. A number of countries are focusing on public sector efficiency and effectiveness issues through an organisational and administrative simplification approach which include reconsidering responsibilities for service delivery, simplification of access through portal organisation, and through administrative simplification. Other countries are focusing on creating services which address specific situations of users through tailor-made services or services organised by life events. Others again focus on enhancing participation and inclusiveness in service development using inclusive service delivery approaches or creating ICT platforms to support increased consultation and participation. Most countries have recognised the importance of improving marketing of services and the value of having a channel management strategy for better service delivery.
Monitoring and Evaluating User Take-up
Monitoring and evaluating user take-up are prerequisites for understanding user preferences and needs. Today, monitoring and evaluating are limited. Governments are, however, increasingly aware of the necessity to collect standardised and systematic information and data to be able to better target e-government development activities and increase user take-up. Governments have only within the last few years developed a national measurement framework and applied it in periodical (typically yearly) measurements. Most countries with a national measurement framework first implemented them and made them operational in the mid-2000s and forward. Measuring e-government service take-up is thus a new activity with limited experience and solid information and data behind it. Internationally, comprehensive user take-up and satisfaction measurement frameworks are still in their infancy. They can be categorised as either internally focused (quality assurance processes including leadership, strategy and planning, human resource management, process and change management, etc.) or externally focused (customer satisfaction, portal/site quality, and quality of service for web services). Benchmarking is done by the United Nations, the European Union, Brown University (United States) and Waseda University (Japan). The European Commission has since 2004 worked on a Union-wide measurement framework and in 2007 piloted a usercentric composite indicator in its benchmarking of e-government. The OECD is proposing to put the user at the centre of its benchmarking and to move towards benchmarking the ability of governments to use e-government to achieve better government as part of future Government at a Glance publications. Future indicators may investigate the correlations of e-government performance to core government business areas, as well as e-participation, and co-designed services.
Improving User Take-up
Governments recognise that providing e-government services is not enough: these services also need to be used by the public. Making the public sector more efficient and effective, and at the same time providing services that citizens and businesses want to use, has over the years been seen as two diametrically opposed goals, but this is not necessarily the case. The goals are complementary in nature and are each their own prerequisites: this is the essence of the paradigm shift from a government-centric to a user-centric service delivery approach. Looking at service delivery from a user’s point of view suddenly puts new demands on the public sector as a service provider. Some OECD countries have grasped this and have transformed – or are in the process of transforming – their public sectors accordingly to enable the delivery of integrated services. This demands strong political and managerial leadership, and a will to change traditional administrative and cultural thinking within the public sector as a whole and among civil servants. Other cross-cutting experiences show that successful user-focused e-government programmes include: organising government websites simply; creating the same "look and feel"; focusing on "killer applications"; ensuring relevance of services provided; and engaging in inclusive service design. The focus on becoming usercentric and innovative in service delivery suggests the need for governments to set up frameworks for designing, developing and delivering innovative and fully integrated services, whether on- or offline – an issue to be further explored in the future.
This annex provides a description and an analysis of user-focused e-government in selected OECD e-government country studies. The descriptions and analyses are built on excerpts from published OECD e-government country studies.
Add to Marked List