DBCDE troubled by e-government usage decline

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DBCDE troubled by e-government usage decline
Broadband cables

Agencies urged to interact with citizens over video.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has urged agencies to review their online service offerings and consider introducing video services to meet citizen demand.

Speaking at the Technology in Government & Public Sector Summit in Canberra this week, DBCDE deputy secretary Abul Rizvi highlighted a “worrying” drop in the use of online government services between 2009 and 2011.

Rizvi highlighted a December 2011 report from AGIMO that found the public’s use of government services via the internet had dropped from 38 percent to 35 percent in those two years (pdf).

“That drop is a very worrying development,” he said, speculating that the complexity of online Government services or overly onerous identification requirements may be to blame.

“Using the internet was not possible to complete the transaction, or they got so confused that they gave up and called or dropped into the local agency office. That’s worrying, if that’s the case.”

Rizvi told the conference that although Australian agencies had yet to deploy video for interaction, the business case for such a service was very strong.

He said the delivery of video services over broadband was a requirement of “generation Y”, born between the 1980s and 90s.

“They won’t use the telephone. They won’t cope with sitting in an office for two hours until they are seen, they don’t have that sort of patience. They’ll demand it,” he said.

Video services could also help agencies manage peak demands and reduce infrastructure costs, he said, highlighting how Westpac offered banking by video in Karratha, through a mining company’s broadband infrastructure.

He noted that Westpac had three choices in managing the demand from well paid residents in Karratha: ignore it as being too pricey to open a branch; open a branch at an estimated cost of $1m a year; or spending up to $30,000 to serve the town through a video interaction channel.

“As fibre to the home becomes available in more country towns we may see more instances of this sort of delivery of services to save on bank branches,” he said.

Rizvi said video was particularly useful in providing “big regional services with peaks in demand”, for which “a large [infrastructure] investment ... may be unused for a large portion of the time to service demand and was an inefficient use of public money”.

DBCDE was running pilot trials with aged care, legal services and local governments to build a better understanding of the barriers to savings and outcomes offered by a Government video channel.

Rizvi highlighted aged care health assessments as ripe for video, noting that video assessments could cut 160 hours of travel time per case manager per year, saving about 1.7 million hours collectively.

He noted that ease of use and access would be important, suggesting that agencies would need to make an upfront investment in video services to overcome many barriers.

The challenge for industry was to make video streaming and transactions to work as easily as the telephone, he said.

“Clunky presentation can be a turn-off – especially with doctors,” he said “After a few bad attempts it’s hard to get [users] back.”

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