Effective participation in the digital economy by government can reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction and promote innovation. Encouraging people to access government services online, and making it easier for them to do so, increases people’s digital confidence and digital literacy. This makes it easier for government to facilitate online engagement and collaboration with citizens to improve service delivery or provide input into policy and regulatory matters.
A recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, for the UK Government, found that face to face transactions cost £10.53 (about $A16), the cost of a telephone engagement was £3.39 (about $A5.15) and dealing with the government by mail was £12.10 (about $A18.40) compared with the cost of an online transaction at just £0.08 (about $A0.12).
Given a choice, most people would prefer to avoid visiting a physical government office for a face-to-face transaction. For example, in 2009 45 per cent of people indicated they would prefer to use the internet for accessing government services. The Department of Finance and Deregulation’s Interacting with Government 2009 report indicates that those who contacted government by internet have the highest level of satisfaction (91 per cent).
All levels of government play a critical role in sustaining the economic and social growth of communities by providing a range of services to residents and local businesses. Actively participating in the digital economy will enable state and local governments to significantly upgrade the quality, timeliness and range of services they can deliver online. State and local governments are also a frequent touch-point for individuals and households in managing their day-to-day affairs. Consequently, more digitally aware state and local governments will drive greater digital engagement by Australian families and communities.
As well as the increased online client-facing tools, cost savings and efficiencies in government service delivery can also be achieved through the greater internal use of bandwidth-intensive ICTs. This is particularly so with regard to greater adoption of high-definition video conferencing and cloud computing. The federal and state and territory governments, for example, have used high-definition telepresence technology for numerous COAG meetings. The National Telepresence System has been operational since July 2010. Benefits from the use of the system from October 2009 to March 2011 include estimated savings of $4.5 million and reduced greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the government of an estimated 899 tonnes.
The combination of high-speed broadband and emerging cloud computing services offers a range of opportunities for improved government services to be delivered more cheaply and effectively to a much wider range of the population. These benefits were estimated by the US Government to provide infrastructure savings of approximately 30 per cent.
Extending ubiquitous, reliable, high-speed broadband to all Australian premises can also promote online engagement with government that provides opportunities for greater public participation in the development of policy and service delivery. The use of online platforms and the release of more government data can promote innovative applications and services by businesses and the community.