Comparing Citizens’ Use of E-Government to Alternative Service Channels

Comparing Citizens’ Use of E-Government to Alternative Service Channels

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1776-6.ch010
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This article examines the role e-government has over citizens’ when they initiate contact with their government. It also compares the influence that other contact channels have on citizens’ contacts with government. A public opinion survey is analyzed to determine what factors explain the different methods of contacting government, namely through the phone, e-government, visiting a government office, or a combination of approaches. This article also analyzes citizens’ preferred method of contacting government, examining different types of information or assistance that citizens’ can get from government. The results of this study indicate that e-government is just one of many possible service channels that citizens use, with the phone being the most common. The overall importance of the survey results indicate that e-government is just one contact channel for citizens, and resources should also be devoted towards other contact channels given their importance as well to citizens.
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Introduction And Background

Citizen engagement is thought to be the key to the success of e-government and its development. E-government can only achieve true transformation through citizen engagement (Jones, Hackney, & Irani, 2007). Research indicates that citizens who use the Internet to contact government express higher levels of satisfaction with their contact experience (Cohen, 2006). A satisfactory contact experience by citizens improves their feelings of trust and support for government and its leaders thereby enhancing democracy (Cohen, 2006).

There is a growing body of literature that examines channel choice and e-government use (Reddick, 2005a; Pieterson, 2009). Research is starting to focus on non Internet forms of e-government such as CRM or customer relationship management systems (Schellong, 2008). There is a growing body of research that examines citizen-initiated contacts with government, and the approaches that governments use to handle these contacts (Reddick, 2005a; Ong & Wang, 2009).

Compared to the Internet, telephones in many developed and developing countries are a more popular means of accessing information from government. In addition, research shows that a combination of contact channels works best to increase e-government service adoption (Singh & Sahu, 2008). Citizens prefer to use a combination of contact channels; therefore, government should address this by providing multiple contact points (Chen, Huang, & Hsiao, 2006; Ebbers, Pieterson, & Noordman, 2008). This article presents an analysis of the most popular contact channels currently used and preferred by citizens to get information and assistance from their government.

On the supply side of e-government, there is a fairly extensive literature that indentifies the importance of e-government to public sector organizations (Coursey & Norris, 2008). However, on the demand side we know less about how and why citizens initiate contact with their government via the Internet (Thomas & Streib, 2003; Thomas & Streib, 2005; Reddick, 2005b). The purpose of this article is to examine citizens and their contacts with e-government through different service channels, a relatively understudied area of research.

The next section of this article examines the existing literature on citizens’ contacts with government through e-government and factors that are predicted to explain their choice of contact channel. This section is followed by a presentation of a survey that examines what citizens look for when they go online, the service channels they use to initiate contact with government, and the preferred method of gathering government information. Towards the end of this article, there is a statistical analysis examining factors that explain actual and preferred contact methods. The conclusion section summarizes the most important findings of this research and provides future research opportunities.

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