miércoles, 31 de octubre de 2012

Measuring #eGov take-up

Note: Slides and text used for Information Society Statistics meeting en Luxemburg

For many years, I have been attending to international eGovernment meetings. In all those meetings, one of the battles we have fought is the need to enrich our current view of the take up of eGovernment services. This slides are a summary of this point of view, which are the limitations of a measurement based on surveys and the mechanism we use in order to overcome this limitations. And of course some results we have obtained.

Because the concept of the take up of a service is a manifold concept. If you look up its definition in the different dictionaries you will find one different definition in each of them. With the analysis of these different definitions we can draw two conclusion. First of all, something (a service) should be avalaible to be bought, used or accepted. Secondly, that acceptance is a factor as important as usage when we speak about the take up of a service.

The generally accepted aproach of how to measure the take up of eGovernment is based on surveys. In the case of the European Union, these surveys are designed under the direction of Eurostat around one simple question: "Are you using Internet for interaction with Public Authorities?". The results offered us a valued perspective of how many citizens or companies are using eGovernment services, but they do not provide us the complete picture for many reasons. To begin with the moment the survey is done has a big impact in the results. Due to the time-dependent nature of the relationship between citizens and government, results of the survey are quite different depending on when is collected. We only need to analyse the different results offered by Eurostat surveys about the usage of eGovernment services in Spain in the last twelve or three months. Secondly, not everybody need to have relationships with Public Authorities. Finally, not everybody have a knowledge of what services are provided by Public Authorities. Evidences for these two last assertions are provided by a survey conducted by the Spanish Sociological Research Agency in 2010 for the Public Services Evaluation Agency.

The reason of the partial picture provided by Eurostat surveys is the hidden take up of eGovernment services: The indirect usage of the services through intermediaries. In the case of Spain, many companies always have been outsourcing their relationships with Public Authorities through small private offices specialised in this field. With the dawn of eGovernment services, the situation has not changed. Although the small private offices has shifted towards  the usage of the electronic channel, the companies they represent are unaware that their relation with Public Administrations actually are conducted online. Similar landscape appear in the arena of the relationships between citizens and governments, but in this case the role of intermediaries are played mainly by family members and friends.

Therefore, we need a mechanism to overcome the assumptions that underpin the Eurostat surveys in order to have a complete picture of the take up of e Government services. Apart of the factors mentioned above for the citizens survey, in the case of the companies survey the limitations are that the size of the companies are not weighted and not all the NACE sectors are included. For these reasons, in 2010 we began to collect data about the number of cases handled online and face-to-face for the main eGoverment services provided by the National Government. The aim was to have a better view of the shift from the analogical model to the digital world in Government services.

The IT system used as the cornerstone for collecting the data is the Administrative Inventory System (AIS). The AIS was established in 1992, originally only as system for compiling the administrative procedures based on software applications. In the transition phase for the implementation of Spanish eGovernment Act (Law 11/2007), the system evolve as an inventory of all the National Government administrative procedures with the information about its degree of online availability. The system was a critical instrument for tracking the implementation of the eGovernment Act which included the obligation of providing through electronic means all the National Government services by the end of 2009. In 2010 the National Interoperability Framework include the obligation for ministries and agencies of the National Government the updating of the information contained in the AIS about its procedures, including the number of cases handled through the different channels.

The AIS is not a complex system. It has a user-friendly web interface and a database which is the hard of the system. In order to pave the way for the integration of the AIS with the back-office the ministries and agencies, the AIS offered also a M-2-M interface based  in web services. The database includes for each procedure its regulation, forms, degree of online availability, number of cases handled through each channel and a clasification attending the target (citizen or company), type (grant, taxes, statements, ...) and policy (education, health, ...). More than 2000 procedures and services are compiled in the AIS database.

The results are published yearly in the website of the eGovernment Observatory since 2010. This information help us to complement the information provided by Eurostat surveys. The results show an steady growth in the take up of eGovernment services, with a similar trend to Eurostat surveys but at higher level in terms of absolute numbers. According with the data collected, nearly 70% of the citizens transactions with the government and more than 90% of the companies transactions are handled online.

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