Americans Embracing E-Gov Despite Privacy Concerns

While Americans are increasingly embracing online government services, they are also concerned dealing with government over the Internet may compromise their privacy, according to a new study released by the Council for Excellence in Government and Accenture .

The study, The New e-Government Equation: Ease, Engagement, Privacy and Protection, was conducted by Hart-Teeter Research and found that more than 60 percent of Americans who use the Internet are interested in using e-government for conducting activities such as filing a change of address, responding to a jury summons, renewing a driver’s license, or obtaining a birth certificate or marriage license.

Nearly 45 percent of Americans agree that if they submit personal information about themselves to government Web sites, government will be able provide them with better services. However, nearly the same percentage believes that if they submit personal information to government Web sites, it may risk the security and privacy of their personal information.

“The results of this poll bring a complex challenge into clear focus. Americans want easy, efficient and effective e-government. Just as important, they want their privacy protected,” said Patricia McGinnis, president and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government. “Striking that balance is the next important evolution in the e-government revolution and will require the efforts of both government and the technology community to apply the appropriate safeguards and build trust in using government Web sites.”

The study also makes the case that Americans believe that e-government is a critical tool to fight terrorism and strengthen homeland security. More than half of all Americans and half of all e-government users believe that investing in e-government will help homeland security by allowing government at all levels to share information, coordinate responses to emergencies quickly, and engage and inform citizens.

Half of all Americans also believe it is appropriate for the government to search its existing databases for information that could help them track down and catch terrorists.

The study included surveys of 1,023 adults nationwide, including an over sample of 202 government Web site users, and 400 government decision makers (200 at the federal level, 100 in state government, and 100 in local government). A best practice area survey of 254 randomly selected Internet users in nine cities was conducted, as well as a survey of 2,000 Internet users in Australia, Canada, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom. The public opinion survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent and was conducted in February.

The study was the third in a series of annual e-government polls conducted on behalf of the Council for Excellence in Government, a non-partisan, non-profit organization of leaders in the private and non-profit sectors.

More than two-thirds (67 percent) of e-government users — defined as those American Internet users who have accessed a government Web site — say that conducting transactions with government is easier because of e-government. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of the same group believe that the benefits of e-government will only grow and have a positive effect on the way government operates over the next 5-10 years.

“The results of this survey are testimonial that the President’s E-gov initiatives are truly transforming government, making access to and transactions with the government easier for citizens,” said Mark Forman, associate director of Technology and E-government at the Office of Management and Budget. “The findings will be useful for refining the work we are doing to increase the government’s capability to interact with the citizens on their terms and better fulfill their needs.”

News Around the Web