Businesses reap rewards of e-government

Businesses in Europe are increasingly using the Internet to access public services, but private citizens are being let down, says a new survey

Europe's citizens are still getting a raw deal when it comes to e-government -- although businesses are now able to take advantage of an increasingly sophisticated array of online services throughout the European Union (EU).

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young today released the latest results of its third survey on electronic Public Services in Europe, which is conducted on behalf of the European Commission (EC).

It looked at the progress Europe is making in providing online services to both citizens and businesses. The measurement criteria cover the level of online interaction and the overall availability of public services online.

For the 20 public services analysed across the 15 EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, the online sophistication has grown by 15 percentage points in one year, from 45 percent to 60 percent.

Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Finland showed particularly good progress, as they have developed services which go beyond the level of two-way interaction, the report states.

In almost every country, public services for businesses score significantly higher than those for citizens -- and this gap is widening.

Country-wise, Sweden and Ireland show the highest level of online sophistication, although in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, the online presence of service providers such as towns, cities, universities, and libraries is above average. Their level of sophistication online is less developed, however.

Stanislas Cozon, vice president, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, said in a statement: "The results show that in the past year significant progress has been made by European governments in providing strong online services around income-generation. European governments now need to focus more on the other services, particularly those most relevant to citizens -- and overall ensure that they have the right approach to implement successfully."

European commissioner Erkki Liikanen added: "E-government in Europe should now focus more closely on the transformation of government authorities into customer-oriented service providers."

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