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Govt digital initiatives missing the personal touch, survey finds

23 Feb 2016

While organisations are implementing digital initiatives to increase efficiencies, it seems Kiwis still prefer face-to-face or phone calls when it comes to dealing with the Government.

That’s according to new research from Unisys, which says 59% of New Zealanders prefer to deal with government agencies by phone or in person rather than online, as questions and queries can be answered on the spot.

The study also found high support for government agencies and departments sharing citizen data between them.

According to Unisys, both results have major implications for successful digital transformation for the New Zealand public sector,

The Unisys Joined Up Government Survey is a national study that provides insights into the attitudes of consumers toward digital government services.

Three in four New Zealanders (76%) say they are somewhat or very confident they can easily find the right government agency to deal with when they experience significant life events such as having a baby, losing a job, getting married, buying a house, or a death in the family.

Thirty-one percent of New Zealanders surveyed say they prefer to engage with government by phone and 28% in person (59 %combined), compared to 39% who favour online contact.

However, the survey shows younger people, aged 18-29 years, have a greater preference (50%) for contacting the government online.

The main reason given for dealing with the government by phone or in person is that questions can be answered as they talk (77%) and they feel more comfortable talking to a real person (65%).

“Such low support of online government channels is surprising given that 86% of New Zealanders use the internet,” says Steve Griffin, country manager, Unisys New Zealand.

“Digital transformation is the innovative use of digital technologies to enable business transformation across business models, processes, operations, products and services,” he explains.

“But for government services this is about more than just the technology,” he says.

“To drive citizens to use online channels, government agencies need to focus on the customer experience and what the citizen expects to get out of the interaction, understanding that they may have questions or scenarios during the process.

“Then agencies can apply digital technologies such as interactive online help, online chat, analytics and social platforms, available across a range of devices, to enable truly workable self-service interactions,” Griffin says.

Of those who prefer online channels, half cite 24x7 availability as the main benefit and the vast majority (88%) prefer to use websites rather than mobile apps. While preference for mobile apps is low (3%), people in Wellington are twice as likely to use such apps (6%), the survey shows.

“Interestingly, only 8% of Kiwis who prefer online interactions cite faster transactions as a benefit,” Griffin notes.

“And more than half (54%) of those who prefer in-person or phone interactions state they believe it would be quicker than doing it online.

“Clearly online channels are not yet seen as a convenient way of dealing with New Zealand government agencies and departments,” he says.

The survey also reveals the New Zealand public has very strong support (63%) for government agencies and departments sharing with each other common information about citizens such as address, birthdate and tax number.

“Public support for sharing certain data between government agencies is great news as it signals permission to transform business processes in a ‘joined up government’ approach to not only improve internal operational efficiencies, but also enhance the customer experience,” explains Griffin.

“Of course such information sharing needs to be secure – with data protected when in transit and stored, tightly managed access controls, and compliant with an individual’s right to privacy,” he says.

“But it is an exciting time for government.”

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