Top council websites ‘get half of visits from mobile’

Some councils are now receiving half of visits to their websites from mobile devices, according to new research.

Figures for April 2014 released by public sector representative body Socitm showed that average access from smartphones and tablets across a sample of 100 councils reached 38.7% in the month. The figure stood at 28.7% in January 2013, which translates into a 35% rise in mobile usage on council sites since that date.

The top 10 councils received an average of 48.3% through mobile devices, with one – Broxbourne District Council – breaking the 50% barrier. It received 51.3% of its visits through such devices.

However, councils with the lowest proportion were receiving only around 20% mobile hits in April.

A report by Socitm said: “The variation between the highest and the lowest suggests that there are significant local factors, which may include the availability of broadband, the quality of the mobile experience and the profile of internet users.”

The Socitm data is broadly in line with figures from the Government Digital Service (GDS) showing that in January 2014, 37% of visits to its platform came from a mobile device, (23% from a mobile and 14% from a tablet). In January 2013, only 24% of visits to came from mobile devices.

Socitm’s figures showed that mobile visitors use council websites for leisure facilities more than twice as much as desktop users, significantly higher than the gap for schools and youth services (47% more likely), rubbish and recycling (42%), housing (35%) and transport and buses (26%).

Two service areas – council tax (minus 23%) and planning (minus 28%) were much less popular for mobile use than on desktops.

Socitm said: “The lesson is that web teams should focus on improving the mobile experience for those services that are the most popular for users of mobile devices.”

The report said that the growth of mobile use for public services could play a key part in combating digital exclusion.

“Surely there is a way to create an app that gives free access whether or not the phone’s owner has an active data plan contract? Telcos could do this for domains and claim recognition for that as part of their contribution to the implementation of the 2012 Social Value Act,” it said.

Helen Milner, chief executive of digital inclusion charity Tinder Foundation, said: “What mobile definitely does represent is a great opportunity, allowing us to reach whole new audiences who cannot – or do not want to – benefit from fixed broadband and who find the whole “keyboard and mouse” thing clunky and not useful.”

Colin Marrs

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