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Most NZers prefer to engage Govt online or via mobile apps – Unisys study

22 Feb 2018

New research from Unisys reveals the way New Zealand citizens prefer to engage with government agencies and departments has rapidly evolved since the previous survey in 2016, with the majority now preferring online channels rather than phone and in-person interactions.

The study also found high support for a single mobile app to access multiple government services, and that the majority of New Zealanders assume government agencies already share data between each other.

The Unisys Connected Government Survey provides insights into the attitudes of consumers toward digital government services.

The study surveyed 1000 adults in New Zealand and was conducted by Omnipoll.

It follows the Joined Up Government Survey conducted in 2016.

The study also was undertaken in Australia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore.

Kiwis increasingly want to engage with government online, with the majority of New Zealanders surveyed (64%) preferring to access services online via their PC or tablet, up from 39% in 2016, overtaking interaction by phone or in person.

Of the five countries surveyed, New Zealand and Singapore recorded the highest preference to use online services, and New Zealand recorded the third highest preference to use mobile apps.

“These findings highlight the need for government to better understand how citizens want to interact with them and to accelerate the digital transformation of government services to close the growing gap between citizens’ desires and government’s capabilities,” says Unisys public sector global head Mark Forman.

While in most countries, the preferred way of engaging with government varies depending on the type of transaction, New Zealand citizens consistently prefer to go online to complete their income tax returns, obtain or renew their driver’s licences or passports, apply for welfare assistance, find out about public service and obtain building permits.

However, they still prefer to call by phone to report incidents and matters to local council for their action.

Unisys Asia Pacific digital government director Richard Amer says that the New Zealand government is a regional leader in digital transformation: “Governments are increasingly turning to digital initiatives to increase internal efficiencies and deliver services to citizens in new and more convenient ways.

“The New Zealand government aims to have 80% of transactions for the 20 most common public services available online by 2021.

Mobile readiness

The research also analysed which smartphone methods citizens would like to use to access government services, including social media, apps and traditional websites.

New Zealanders most strongly support a single mobile app that gives access to multiple government agencies – desired by 57% of Kiwis, compared to only 19% who are willing to download individual apps for each department.

Almost half, 45%, want to access government websites via their phones.

Of the five countries surveyed, New Zealanders have the lowest support for using social media to engage with the government (13%) – whereas this is a desirable channel in the Philippines and Malaysia.

“Essentially, citizens want governments to provide them with an outcome or solution in the simplest way – so a single point of contact is extremely attractive.

“The low support for social media is interesting as New Zealand emergency services have successfully used social media as a channel to quickly deliver information to citizens,” he says.

“The reluctance may be because citizens are willing to receive information by social media, but it is not seen as a primary means for them to initiate contact with government or engage in two-way information exchange,” Amer adds.

Believe government agencies already share data

In 2016, New Zealand recorded strong public support (63% of respondents) for government agencies and departments sharing demographic data with each other.

The new research found that the vast majority of citizens (80%) believe New Zealand government agencies already share this demographic data.

And more than half assume they share information about their Inland Revenue Department (IRD) numbers, criminal records, welfare benefits received, employment status and income tax paid.

Only one in three believe their health and education records are shared.

Despite this expectation that government agencies are sharing data, citizen support for this depends on the purpose and perceived benefit.

Support is strongest where it enables law enforcement agencies to identify crime and terrorism (51% of New Zealanders support) and to a lesser degree to avoid having to repeat the same information to different agencies (40%).

Only 34% support data sharing to enable government to deliver more targeted services.

“The top reasons given by those who do not want agencies to share information with each is that it is not clear how the government will use the data and that it infringes on an individual’s right to privacy,” Amer says.

“Governments can address this to some extent by being transparent about who will access data, how it will be used, and how it will be protected. But trust is earned and must be rebuilt after every data breach.”

Amer adds there are obvious benefits in analysing data to better target services to where they are needed most.

“But there is a fine line between security, privacy and convenience. Governments must proactively minimise the impact of data breaches – whether they be malicious or accidental - such as de-identifying data used in analysis so that it can’t be linked back to an individual,” says Amer.

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