E-gov happiness breeds more use

2002 E-government poll

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The more that citizens use e-government services, the happier they are with the quality of those services and the more they plan to use additional offerings in the future, according to a new study from the Council for Excellence in Government.

Federal, state and local e-government efforts are on the edge of something great as the number of citizens using the Web for information and services grows, and people are finding that the services meet or exceed their expectations, said Peter Hart, part of Hart-Teeter Research, which conducted this third annual poll for the council.

"It seems to me that we are on the crest of a breakthrough here," he said upon the release of the study April 14.

Government's challenge still is to change the way service is provided, making it consistent across agencies, levels of government and delivery channels, said Mark Forman, associate director of information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

And that may be easier to do as government executives see the citizen expectations and experiences outlined in this poll, he said.

Just as people were nervous about using automated teller machines instead of going to a bank teller to handle transactions, many citizens are at first nervous about using the Internet rather than working with government employees at an office, Hart said. But according to the poll results, after those first few electronic experiences, citizens are comfortable with e-government and are looking for more.

Poll respondents said that the Internet is their second most popular method for communicating with government, behind only in-person contact. For those who have used e-government services more than once, the Internet jumps to the No. 1 position.

"The more people do this, the more they are convinced it is making their life better," said Guy Molyneux, senior vice president at Hart-Teeter.

Moreover, when asked about the biggest benefits of e-government, respondents put greater accountability at the top of the list and easier transactions far below.

This is an important finding, Forman said. "Citizens are very sophisticated in their views of accountability," he said.

They are not just looking to hold public officials responsible through voting or referendums, they recognize that the development of rules and regulations is where oversight happens. So the excitement over new offerings such as the Regulations.gov portal are understandable, Forman said.

"These are part of the new accountability structures in an e-democracy," he said.

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