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It was only a few short years ago that organizations were falling over themselves to create native mobile apps to service their customers' every need. Any organization that did not have an app – or sometimes many apps – targeting multiple mobile platforms would be regarded as a technological Luddite needing to lift its game. Recent citizen sentiment research commissioned by Telstra for its Connected Government Program 2015, the findings of which were presented at the recent Vantage event in Melbourne, Australia, indicates that this is changing and the age of "app frenzy" may well be over.

Is app fatigue setting in?

To understand the ways in which Australian citizens prefer to communicate with government, Telstra recently commissioned a survey that attempted to quantify relative satisfaction with various channels, including face-to-face, voice call center, email, post, online (web), and mobile. Although many of the results were intuitive – citizens have a universal aversion to call centers, for example – some unexpected trends were identified.

Overwhelmingly, citizens are not only comfortable with online channels, but actively prefer to interact with government through these channels – essentially web services. Interestingly, although there was strong demand to interact through mobile devices, there were also indications of the onset of "app fatigue," with pushback against the proliferation of overlapping and sometimes low-value government native mobile apps. It seems that although citizens are keen to use their smart devices to interact with government in many cases, they would rather use a well-designed, mobile-friendly web interface than waste time, effort, and device real estate downloading yet another app of limited value.

There remains a strong use case for native apps for frequent interactions – the success of mobile-banking apps, for example, attests to this – but for infrequent interactions it seems it is just not worth the effort. This aligns with the actions of some agencies that, after the first flush of enthusiasm for "agency app 1.0," have replaced their initial offering with a mobile-friendly HTML5 web service. In many cases this provides similar functionality without the overhead of developing for at least two or three platforms and managing multiple app stores. It seems that agencies' desire to realize efficiencies is aligning with the preferences of their customers.

Ovum has previously highlighted the need to have a clear business strategy around mobile apps. The key challenge for CIOs is to educate their business colleagues away from "we need an app for that" as a default position, and to clearly understand where a native app is the right solution and, more importantly, where it is not.

A further interesting shift is highlighted by the reduction in citizen worries regarding the secure sharing of their personal data between government departments to obtain better services. Although there remain concerns, they are decreasing compared to the findings of previous surveys. This is not to say that all citizens trust government all the time. It is more likely that respondents have reached a more sophisticated position where they understand that in many cases, their frustrations in dealing with government could be reduced if their information is shared securely, and this is a cost-benefit trade-off they are prepared to make.


Further reading

Business Strategy for Enterprise Mobile App Development,IT0022-000388 (June 2015)

Mobile Application Development: HTML5 vs. Hybrid vs. Native, IT021-000005 (March 2014)


Al Blake, Principal Analyst, Public Sector

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