From Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, the Internet has become one of the drivers of popular protests and social dialogue. Also, politicians use the likes of Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch with their electorates. But are public authorities using the Internet enough to improve interactions with the general public?
The online provision of public services has received much investment in recent years, and the number of people using online services has increased accordingly in all OECD countries. This is welcome news as it not only provides greater convenience for users, it also reduces costs for all involved, particularly in the current context of belt-tightening and public sector cuts.
Between 2005 and 2010, the proportion of those aged 16-74 using e-government services increased from 28% to 42% in the OECD area. The leading positions are taken up by the Nordic countries, with over 70% of those in Iceland and Denmark now using the Internet for governmental services. Turkey, Greece and Italy are at the other end of the scale, with usage rates of less than 20%, and little sign of increase in recent years.
Even in the best performing countries, the rate of uptake of e-government services remains lower than expected, particularly in the context of high-speed internet. More can be done to encourage people to embrace online services, such as by using marketing strategies to raise awareness of their availability.
©OECD Observer No 286 Q3 2011