Public sector workers cautious about e-government security

Public sector staff are unwilling to use e-government services for financial transactions, although most are quite happy to...

Public sector staff are unwilling to use e-government services for financial transactions, although most are quite happy to conduct similar transactions on commercial websites, according to a snapshot poll.

The survey, carried out among central and local government workers at the Government Computing 2003 conference earlier this month, found just 14% of respondents said they were prepared to do electronic transactions such as bill payments or child support claims. Only 7% said they would be happy providing their credit card details to online government services.

In contrast, nearly all (97%) were prepared to use private sector websites for transactions such as online banking and purchasing. 

Sara Nicholls, sales and marketing director for the public sector at LogicaCMG, which commissioned the report, said the figures highlighted a lack of trust in e-government services.

Despite the small sample size, just 50 respondents, Glyn Evans, head of e-services at Camden Council and chair of Socitm’s information age government group, said acknowledged that trust is a concern.

“There’s a big issue around trust and the public sector and you can’t bring in ways of dealing with the public sector online without addressing those trust issues,” said Evans. “There’s also a lot we need to learn in the public sector in terms of good website design.”

However, he said the situation was not as grim as the conference poll suggested. There are “a significant minority” of people who communicate with local and central government electronically, he insisted.

“In Camden we get a lot of bills such as parking fines paid online because it’s convenient,” Evans said.

Ultimately, Evans still believes that e-government services will take off and he pointed out that the private sector had, initially, encountered a similar public reaction to online transactions.

“It will happen, but you have to be realistic - certain things people will still prefer to deal with over the phone or face to face,” he said.

On the positive side, nine out of 10 respondents in the survey said they would use online government services again.

Some 36% felt online government services are quicker and easier to use than traditional channels, 25% felt they would save the government and taxpayers money and 10% thought it would be more convenient.

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