While largely happy with the quality of e-services provided by the public sector, Canadians still have concerns around the privacy and security of their online transactions with government.
That’s a key finding of a recent survey titled ‘Citizens First 4’ conducted by the Institute for Citizen-Centered Service (ICCS) and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC).
The mandate of ICCS is to promote high levels of citizen satisfaction with public-sector service delivery, while IPAC is an organization concerned with the practice and theory of public management. Both are headquartered in Toronto.
The survey canvassed the views of around 7,000 Canadians on public sector service quality. Most stated service levels had improved at all three levels of government, but highlighted the need for better access to services.
Canadians are worried about security and privacy of personal information, said Wendy Paquette, information manager with ICCS.
“Their concerns are about secure storage of their information. If you’re online and you provide personal information, [you] want to ensure that information is protected and secure.”
Paquette said another concern relates to the unauthorized use of personal information – for example the possibility of someone breaking into the system and using information to create a false identity.
One remedy, she said, is for citizens to be aware that there are security standards for government online services, and that’s enshrined in legislation. She suggested starting each online transaction with government with a statement saying such legislation exists. 59 per cent of those polled said it would make them more comfortable knowing that.
Canadians also want prompt and accessible troubleshooting capabilities, whether they’re on the phone or online, she added.
She said – whether online or on the phone – people wanted to have real time conversations with customer service agents because they want help right away. “Once you’re on there you want to do it, finish it, and be gone.”
The Citizens First 4 survey results also help change the general perception that government service isn’t quality service, Paquette said. “The lesson here is anytime we’ve got good service experience feedback it’s great to make it public, so public perception starts to change.”
That sentiment is echoed by Patrice Dutil, director of research at IPAC. Dutil believes the survey is useful because it dispels the myth that government services are sub par compared to the private sector.
“This is the fourth time we’ve done this (survey),” he said.
“Not only are we getting the sense that people are generally very satisfied with their service, but that [satisfaction] been growing over the past six years.”
Service levels at each level of government have gone up consistently, Paquette said. “So the good news is they’re all going in the right direction. But there’s still room for improvement.”