Open government data emerging, trust in government declining

Monika Ermert in Internet Policy Review: “The use of open government data has declined since last year, a new study by the Initiative D21 and the Institute for Public Information Management (ipima) reported at a press conference in Berlin today. According to the fourth edition of the eGovernment Monitor, the number of users of eGovernment services in Sweden in 2013 was 53 percent, compared to 70 percent in 2012. On average, the decline was as high as 8 percent in those countries that were monitored. Numerous data breach scandals and the revelations about pervasive surveillance were obvious reasons for the heightened caution, the researchers wrote in their summary.

For the eGovernment Monitor, groups of 1000 users respectively in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US were questioned on their experiences with eGovernment open data – from the more practical online tax declaration to the still rather nascent online participatory possibilities.

With the exception of Austria, all countries according to the survey lost e-Government users. Apart from Sweden, the US (down 24 from 39) and the UK (down to 34 from 45) lost most eGovernment users. While in 2012 eGovernment use was still growing in numbers in all countries, this year’s results were alarming, Robert Wieland CEO of TNS Infratest and Vice-president of D21, an industry driven initiative for the information society and IT services, said. “We see a loss of trust in the security of eGovernance services,” he said, calling to government and administration to act upon it….

Quite obviously, users of eGovernment services ask for much higher standards, with, for example, 67 percent of German users questioning the security of data transmission to eGovernment services sites. The risk that data transferred to eGovernment sites might be stolen was said to be a big problem by 65 percent of UK (up from a mere 6 percent in 2012) and US users (up from 11 percent).

Also satisfaction with the standards of government services online in general is on the decline, according to the eGovernment Monitor-study. Users complain a lot about meagre usability, lack of seamlessness and transparency of the services. Where a service has been focussed and worked on by governments, usage numbers have grown despite the more bleak general trend, as the numbers for the German tax declaration show (plus 2 percent). The usability issues, and perhaps also the issue of security of transmission, can probably be addressed more easily than the trust problem.”

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