Citizens Online - A Research About the Attitudes of the Population Toward Online Public Services

At the international congress ITAPA 2007 "Living Online", held in Bratislava, the Institute for Public Affairs has presented the results of a research about the attitudes of the population toward online public services. The research was carried out on a representative sample and presented as a report tilted Citizens Online authored by IVO analyst Marián Velšic. 

The research is one of the outputs of a project titled Launching e-Governance in Slovakia: Empowering Citizens to Participate, Influence and Exercise Democratic Control, and was supported by Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe. It represents one of the institute's flagship projects on e-Government in Slovakia.

The results of the research have shown that the lack of information on their availability remains one of the main barriers to everyday use of electronic services by the public is. Upwards of 87 % of the population lacks information about the nature of this type of service and how to use them. A conservative approach by the population was yet another barrier that was uncovered  was a  when it comes to the mode of communication with institutions of the public sector, including bureaus, local administration and others. The majority of the tasked respondents - almost two thirds - expressed a preference in going to the bureaus in person as opposed to communication online. Furthermore, only every 10th respondent prefers electronic form of communication. This preference is due to deeply rooted behavioral models from the period of the so-called real socialism, in conjunction with the low level of informedness about new technologies.

The research found that the younger generation is more likely to use online communication, along with those with higher level of education, white collar workers, freelancers, students, inhabitants of larger cities, and inhabitants of Bratislava region. When it comes to the potential of use of online public services, we can consider these groups to be in the forefront, when it comes to the potential and willingness as opposed to the remainder of the population.

According to the report's author, "only a small portion of the population has practical experience with this kind of services – in the last year only every fifth person in Slovakia has used at least one of the e-Government services available. The majority of the population tends to use only those services, which are available through the homepages of the bureaus and institutions. The type of services most sought out include searching for information, downloading forms, etc. Only one third of the above-mentioned group has used full-fledged electronic communication in contact with public services. However, it has to be noted that there is a limited availability of full fledged online public services available thus far."

The research also uncovered significan deficits when it comes to use of online public services. More than 75%  of the population has not used online public services at all. Disinterest and  preference for  a face-to-face contact were among the most prevalent reasons cited. Other reasons include insuficient level of informedness about the services' availability, their complicated nature, or lack of internet access. The majority of those who have used at least one type of public online services within the last year, have expessed content with the quality of service. In general, the rule is that the more complex the service, the higher the share of satisfied users. For instance, 75% of the respondents who have used full-fledged electronic communication with a bureau rated it favorably. The greatest number of dissatisfied users were among those who have used electronic  communication at the first-plane level – when it comes to the availabilty of information on the homepage. However, the overall perception of online public services was positive - 96 % of respondents expressed view that they save money, time and other indirect costs. Among the most positively evaluated attributes of online services is their  easy accessibility, quick administration, and savings in administrative fees. On the contrary, the most often cited concerns was protection of personal information.

"The majority of the respondents clearly sees the advantages of online public services and their application  in the future. The benefits that were cited the most frequently include reduction in time, cost savings, simplification of the administrative process, reduction in the bureacracy and hassles. The areas  where the use of online public services enjoy broad support include issuing personal documents, healthcare services, job searches or filing taxes online", concludes the report.

The level of digital literacy of the population was found to be one of potential barriers to implementation of online public services. Despite the fact that sizable share of the population has no problem with basic tasks, prerequisite to their succesful use, such as basic PC usage, internet, printing, or E-mail communication skills, upwards of 50% of respondents expects to need assistance in their usage (combined "definitely" or "rather" responses ). The research also revealed another potential barrier to wide use of online services - potential security risks associated with use of electronic communication.

As was summed up by the report's author, Marian Velsic, the foundations for implementation of online services has been laid down: „The level of practical experience with usage of different types of commercial and non-commercial type of online public services points to the fact that presently almost half of the population has the necessary skills to use every kind of online service offered – at the level of information gathering. This means that half of the population readily searches for information on the internet with regard to the adminstrative steps and forms required to perform various administrative tasks. Moreover, more  than one third of the population is capable of one-way interaction with bureaus, i.e. readily downloads necessary documents required to initiate the administrative process. However, only every fifth person has the skills and experience needed to use online public services on the so-called transaction level, i.e. capability to use full-fledged online service"

Participants of panel "Living Online" at ITAPA 2007 congress - Vladimír Repčík (Slovak Radio), Pavol Múdry (SITA Agency), Martyn Suker (Media & Production), Marián Velšic (IVO), Pavol Kukura (Slovak Telekom) and Lucia Mušková (ITAPA). More photos from congress...

More information can be found at:

Research report Citizens Online. (Available in English language)

Research report Občania online. (Available in Slovak language) 

Multimedia CD Občania online. (Available in Slovak language)

Powerpoint presentation Občania online. (Available in Slovak language)

ITAPA 2007 International Congress „Living Online“. (Available in English language)

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