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Public increases internet interactions with government


Ofcom report shows rising usage of government websites and online petitions, but transactions level off

People have increased their use of government services on the internet, especially in signing petitions and using the relevant websites and apps, according to communications regulator Ofcom.

The findings have emerged in Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes, its latest report on how people use different media in the UK.

Some 39% of respondents said they had signed an online petition in 2015 compared with 19% in 2013. And 73% of respondents had used websites or apps to find news and events in local areas in 2015, growing from 56% in 2013.

The figure for completing government processes online, such as registering for tax credits, renewing a passport or completing a tax return, was higher at 66% for 2015 and compared with 61% in 2013; but it had slipped from 69% in the intervening year.

The research provides a broad picture of media literacy across the internet, television, radio, games and mobile phones and aims to identify emerging issues and skills gaps. It was based on a survey of 1,841 adults which investigated their internet usage, focusing on 35 internet based activities, including seven that related to accessing central and local government services.

More than half of all respondents said they had gone online to look for public services information on central government websites (68%) or to find information provided by their council (62%). Neither of these had been recorded in earlier reports, but there was a rise in the proportion of people contacting a councillor of MP online, up to 21% from 13% in 2013.

Age factor

In terms of age, just over half of 16-74s and less than four in 10 over-75s went online to look for public service information, compared to more than three-quarters of 25-54s.

Meanwhile, the research found that a third of internet users had never completed any government processes online. The reasons were varied: 26% said they prefer to fill in a form or use post; 22% said they prefer to make a phone call; 19% said they do not need to complete these government processes; and 18% said they prefer to talk to someone in person. 

The survey also asked respondents about the device they preferred to use to access government services. Laptops or netbooks were found to be the most commonly used among the 16-64s (45%), while 23% mainly used a desktop computer, 16% said they mostly used a tablet and 14% said they used a smartphone.

Image credit: iStock_ChannelShift_MihaiSimonia.jpg


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