For the public sector the key challenges in the next few years will be coping with the financial pressure resulting from high national debts. Reforms must deliver efficiency increases and cost reductions, says Isabella Proeller25, Professor of Public und Nonprofit Management at the University of Potsdam. But alongside these objectives, it is also important not to forget about providing better services for customers.
The LIFE 2 Study shows that these two key requirements – efficiency and customer focus – can be combined. For 36 percent of the ICT executives and 37 percent of the consumers surveyed for this study efficiency is the most important characteristic of customer-friendly administration. In second place is accessibility: 32 percent of the consumers and 26 percent of the ICT executives say that a high degree of accessibility is the most important characteristic of customer-friendly administration. In comparison: Only 17 percent of consumers and 19 percent mention friendliness as a decisive characteristic.
These two key areas, efficiency and accessibility, are also the ones where both consumers and ICT executives see ICT having the greatest influence. Three-quarters of the ICT executives (75%) believe that information and communication technology has a (very) high significance for the efficiency of public administration. 71 percent of executives believe that ICT has a high or very high influence on accessibility in public administration.
And what about consumers? Are they ready for more ICT in administration? The LIFE 2 Study shows that electronic appointment reservations (76%) and electronic document application (78%) are both very interesting aspects for consumers. Two-thirds of consumers (67%) find the idea of a single, standard public administration telephone number (very) interesting. Secure transmission of legally valid documents over the Internet is an option that 61 percent of consumers would welcome. More than half of consumers could envisage virtual consultation meetings with public authorities (56%). Consumers are open to a “virtualization” of public services (see Figure 7-10).
In Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, half of the consumers surveyed have already used an eGovernment application, e.g. downloaded an application form from a website, filled in an electronic tax return form etc. In France and Spain eGovernment is more widely used: More than three-quarters of those surveyed for the study have used eGovernment applications (75% in Spain and 77% in France).
“IT’s role as an enabler of innovations in public administration is truly vast. Most of the developments of the past ten to 15 years were only possible because of IT.” (Professor Isabella Proeller, Chair of Public and Nonprofit Management, University of Potsdam)
Increasing efficiency in customer services is not the only potential that ICT offers for public administration; greater use of ICT applications within administration processes is another highly promising field. ICT executives in this sector see plenty of scope for optimization in electronic document management and resource planning: 69 percent and 63 percent respectively of ICT executives in public administration believe that the potential for the use of ICT in these fields is very great or great (see Figure 7-11).
25 In addition to the think tank, in-depth interviews were also conducted with selected experts.