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UK regulator Ofcom’s latest annual summary of Internet activity by UK citizens provides evidence of the increasing use of digital services. However, it also highlights specific groups that appear to be resistant to the digital agenda of government. For public sector enterprises in the UK, the report provides a timely reminder that no matter what the imperatives are to adopting digital services, enterprises need to consider a multichannel approach to customer contact if they are not to leave certain citizen groups behind.

Use of online public services continues to increase, but there is the risk of creating a two-speed service

There is little surprise that more people have gone online to access data on public services in 2014 compared to 2013, and that increasingly this activity is centered on finding information on public services and looking at websites/apps for news or information about events in their local area. The most active users are aged 35–44: these are the types of users who are more likely to have both sufficient technical capability and a need for public services; services that are in the main standard and repeatable (entitlements, registrations, or for compliance purposes). In fact, the findings indicate that demand across the six areas considered by Ofcom have, on average, grown across all age ranges.

However, the data provides a cautionary warning. The youngest and oldest citizens or citizens from lower social demographic groups are less likely to complete online applications for accessing services. Only half (51%) of the respondents from the lowest social demographic grouping (DE) had completed government processes online. This rises slightly for respondents in the next social group, C2 (59%). It compares to 74% and 84% for respondents from C1 and AB social demographic groupings respectively.

Digital services allow governments to address the average user, in a least-cost way. However, as with the Pareto distribution in statistics, the bulk of cases lie in the long tail, outside the average. The fact that key groups cannot complete online applications can lead to duplication in applications, frustration, and extra pressure on contact center resources. Those public sector enterprises that can manage to balance new and old contact channels when considering improving the customer journey and experience will be the ones to reap the most benefit.


Further reading

Getting started on a digital strategy, IT0007-000811 (April 2015)


Chris Pennell, Practice lead, Public Sector

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