The Internet is becoming the Canadian citizen’s preferred method for accessing government services, according to a recent report.

Released last week, 2005 Government On-Line (GOL) annual report titled From Vision to Reality…and Beyond stated that 31 per cent of Canadians’ most recent contact with the government was via the Internet. Online interactions with all levels of government have increased by 30 per cent, from 150 million in 2001 to almost 600 million in 2004.

The 2005 GOL target is to put the 130 most commonly used services of the federal government online.

While all 130 services are online, they offer various degrees of functionality and will continue to evolve beyond 2005, according to Ken Cochrane CEO of Public Works and Government Services Canada’s (PWGSC) IT Services Branch. “Seventy-one services have met their 2005 service progression targets,” Cochrane said. “The remaining 59 are at an average of 80 per cent completion, and are on schedule to achieve their targets by December 2005.”

Cochrane said individual milestones were established for each service to match the substantial increase in demand through 2004 and beyond 2005, but the GOL initiative only acts as a catalyst and an enabler, distributing and overseeing funds for online services, as well as monitoring the most commonly-used services.

Examples of online services listed in the report include electronic resources for finding jobs, filing taxes, reserving campgrounds in national parks, and obtaining wait times at key border stations.

For example, said Cochrane, Parks Canada tested its online reservation system at eight national parks in 2004 and will extend it to almost half of the 40 national parks across Canada in 2005. “The GOL Initiative is near completion this year, and many GOL services are already being promoted to Canadians. The Canada Revenue Agency is actively marketing ‘My Account,’ their online tax service.”

Canada’s focus on e-government will continue, and users can expect to see a more integrated approach to service delivery including tighter integration between different service delivery channels (Internet, telephone, counter service, and mail), according to Cochrane.