Government efforts to reach out to the population via the internet are foundering because of security fears and a general lack of awareness, according to a study.This content was published on March 2, 2004 - 15:49
Only one in ten Swiss makes use of online services provided by the local, cantonal and federal authorities despite much publicity promoting e-government.
The study published on Tuesday by the Bern University of Applied Sciences and the information technology company, Unisys, is the first of its kind.
Researchers found that only twelve per cent of the population were using the internet to communicate with the authorities.
They found that one of the main reasons for the low take-up of e-government was that most people did not know about it.
“Awareness of websites belonging to the authorities is disappointing,” the study’s authors said in a statement.
Only half of the 1,003 people questioned said they knew about the homepage of the town in which they lived and only 25 per cent were aware of the government’s web address.
And just seven per cent had heard of www.ch.ch, the online administrative portal, which was launched with great fanfare by the government three years ago.
“One of the reasons for this could be that the Swiss e-government project is just in its first phase,” added the report.
However, researchers said the Swiss recognised the advantages of using the web - namely constant access and less red tape - and believed that they would be using it more in the future.
The study’s authors predicted that the internet could replace the telephone as the second most important way of contacting the authorities in the future.
But they concluded that there was still a great deal of work to be done to promote the use of e-government, particularly in overcoming security and data protection fears.
Only 49 per cent of those questioned said they were prepared to pay administrative charges over the internet.
However, researchers noted that electronic voting appeared to be growing in popularity, especially among young people.
“Young people are more interested in and more prepared to use e-voting,” said the researchers.
The government has already successfully experimented with e-voting in canton Geneva and has said that it could benefit the Swiss living abroad.
A separate study by swissinfo/Swiss Radio International published on Monday showed that 89 per cent of Swiss abroad appreciated the web as a medium for staying in touch with their home country.
The findings come at a time when the government is actively trying to push e-government in Switzerland.
A report six months ago saw the Swiss call for more public services to be available online.
Some 83 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed said they would use the internet for everyday administrative tasks such as registering a change of address or searching for jobs.
Last September the government launched the eVanti.ch initiative, which aims to cut down on bureaucracy between authorities and boost Switzerland’s e-government ranking in Europe – currently 15 out of 18.
The finance ministry says it wants the country to move up into the top three by the end of 2005.
Switzerland ranks high for web usage, with 45 per cent of the population saying they use the internet more than once a week.
swissinfo with agencies
1,003 people took part in the survey.
It was carried out across all language regions in the county.
The study is to be repeated every nine months.
The aim is to find out if the use of e-government increases.
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