Study: UK citizens shun online government

Britons are going online in large numbers, but don't yet appear to be interested in e-government services.

Despite investment in e-government and encouragement for Internet use, fewer than one in ten people access government departments online.

According to a study by market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts in the number of citizens who are accessing government services online.

The research indicates that on average about 26 percent of Europeans use the Internet for dealing with government departments.

However, the UK has higher Internet use for general browsing and e-commerce than some other European countries, said Susannah Quick, a director at Taylor Nelson Sofres, which carried out 29,000 interviews across Europe. "(But) this has not translated into use of e-government," she added.

The Inland Revenue has been offering tax breaks for tax returns submitted electronically. And a national television advertising campaign is promoting the government's UK Online initiative. Despite such schemes, government e-Envoy Andrew Pinder recently acknowledged that the government would miss some targets in its effort to make the UK an Internet leader. "We have got to turn the e-government hype into reality," he said.

Pinder told delegates at the Confederation of British Industry annual conference that firms had a key role in encouraging more use of the Internet, and called for them to adopt broadband services. BT has confirmed that until it sees more demand for broadband, it has no plans to extend the rollout of ADSL beyond the 1,000 exchanges it had promised to equip by the end of September 2001.