The Malta Information Technology Agency has conducted a research study as part of an EU-funded project, entitled “ESF4.243 – Strengthening Competences to Service the Public Efficiently Through e-government”.
The study delved into the public’s perception of e-government. E-government is the use of online portals which enable the citizen to interact more efficiently with the government – such as by paying utility bills and contraventions online. This alleviates the bureaucratic problems that are often associated with government services, as one is able to complete these tasks in the comfort of one’s own home, as opposed to taking time off work, going through traffic and waiting in line so as to solve a problem in person.
The research aimed to:
- understand the main reasons why people are averse to using the services;
- be used by the Government when planning and designing policies; and
- identify methods in which citizens and businesses can be encouraged to use the services.
The 2015 results have uncovered a few interesting facts about the perceptions and opinions of businesses and the general public with regards to eServices. The business community observed that more eServices should be made available for business purposes. Many businesses agreed that navigability of some sites is not always easy to follow and comprehend. Since time is of the essence for the business community, they proposed that eServices should offer an efficient alternative to traditional services.
Some intriguing statistics emerged – the majority of respondents preferred to call or go to a government entity in person, while only 28% used e-government services only. People under the age of 45 are more inclined to use the e-government services whereas those over 45 prefer the more traditional methods.
The majority of participants think that meeting public officials in person is likely to produce better results – however, even within the traditional system, there is room for improvement. Participants suggested:
- extending visiting hours;
- improving inter and intra-departmental communications, and
- public officials who deal with citizens should follow professional development courses in customer care.
With regards to the eServices, it transpired that there is a need for more awareness, and the process needs to be simplified. Step-by-step guidelines and better navigability and search functionality would also improve the overall user experience. Focus groups also pointed out that public websites did not have pleasant aesthetics and there was no uniformity in appearance. Touching on the eID, although the greater majority was in possession of one, only 39% of participants actually made use of it.
In spite of all this, there were also quite a few positive results. 86% thought that the Government’s eServices are trustworthy, while 83% find eServices easy to use. During the press conference on the matter, MITA’s executive chairman, Mr Tony Sultana, stated that all the abovementioned points will be taken into consideration. He added that the adoption of a set of principles is necessary so as to improve and facilitate the development and provision of these eServices.
The MITA research study can be accessed here.
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