UK ‘underperforming’ in government digitisation, EC report concludes

Major study of 34 countries ranks UK is sixth citizen-adoption league table but 19th in terms of digitisation of services

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The UK is “underperforming” in the digitisation of government services and needs to improve in its offerings on a number of “key enablers” to digital government, including electronic identification and data-sharing, a major new report has concluded.

The egovernment Benchmark 2017, published by the European Commission, ranks the digital government credentials of 34 European countries, including the 28 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. 

The countries that the report names as the five best-performing overall are Malta, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, and Norway.

The UK is bracketed among those countries whose e-government potential is “unexploited”. These nations are characterised by high penetration rates for the percentage of citizens using digital government services, but a comparatively low rate of digitising those services.

The UK ranks sixth in terms of penetration rate – with about seven in ten citizens using online government services. This compares with a collective average of just 52% across the 34 countries. 

However, the UK places 19th out of 34 in terms of digitisation of services, with a score of less than 60%. This is well below the average rate of 65%, and a long way behind Malta, which has digitised 97% of services – comfortably more than any other country surveyed. Estonia, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria all scored above 80%.

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The UK is bracketed alongside Ireland, Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Slovakia as a country that is “underperforming” in the digitisation of government services.

“These countries all seem to have the context, users and government characteristics to score
better in digitisation performances,” the report said. “These countries are required to invest in digitalising the back- and front-offices, in order to have more efficient and effective procedures and a better services delivery.”

Transparency and usability
Each nation – and the 34 as a collective – were assessed in four areas: user-centric government; transparent government; cross-border mobility; and key enablers.

In the area of user-centric government, services were judged across three metrics: online availability; usability; and mobile-friendliness. Collectively, the 34 nations have put 82% of services online, and achieved a usability rating of 89%. 

“The Government Digital Service is much appreciated across Europe. But, as more services are becoming available online, the key issue is the enablers to those services”
Niels van der Linden, Capgemini

The mobile-friendliness figure is comparatively low at 54%. But this is one area where the UK excels, with a score of about 89% – behind only Sweden and Denmark.

The 34 countries analysed in the study, which was undertaken by Capgemini, Sogeti, IDC, and Politecnico di Milano, fared significantly worse in the area of transparency of e-government, with an overall score of 59%. 

Clarity of information about service delivery was rated at 50%, with access to personal data scored at 53%. The transparency of the organisations providing the service was rated a little higher, at 73%.

The area of cross-border mobility provided a very mixed picture, with the availability of services across borders rated at 74%, and usability scored at 78%. But the use of electronic identification across borders is available in just 22% of cases, and citizens can use e-documents in a country other than where they were issued 34% of the time. 

The 34 countries achieved a cumulative score for cross-border mobility of 63%.

The final area analysed in the report relates to four key enablers of digital government that the report posits will improve service provision in the coming months and years. This is where the nations studied fared worst, with an aggregated rating overall of 52%.

The worst score of all was in authentic sources – which are defined as forms that come pre-filled with a citizen’s data that the government has already gathered in relation to another service, and then shared between departments, to save citizens having to enter their details multiple times. In this area the countries’ collective score was just 47%.  

The result was a little better for digital post, with 50% of government services offering citizens the option of receiving digital-only communications.

Electronic identification is available in the 52% of cases, while the use of e-documents is permissible 62% of the time, the study found.

It is in the area of these key enablers to digital government that the UK most needs to improve, Niels van Der Linden, principal consultant at Capgemini Consulting, told PublicTechnology.

“The UK is recognised for being a leader in how it designs user-centric services, and the Government Digital Service is much appreciated across Europe,” he said. “But, as more services are becoming available online, the key issue, and the challenge, is the enablers to those services, such as being able to use and e-ID, whether you can decide to receive only digital communications, using an e-ID, and whether, when you access forms, the government can recognise you and your data.”

Sam Trendall

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