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Two-thirds of us want faster, simpler and fully digitised public services

New survey shows widespread demand in UK for online public services that match offerings of large private sector organisations such as Amazon, Netflix and Uber – but with significant concerns about security. 

Strategic innovation and tech company Nortal has, in partnership with Censuswide, conducted a survey of 2,000 nationally representative consumers across the UK on what they’d like to see from public services delivered online. The survey was carried out between March 15 and 19 this year – and the results are striking. 

  • Some 66% of respondents demanded a fully digital suit of online public services 
  • Of these, a massive 85% wanted to see this shift achieved within two years 
  • Most beneficial features seen in private-sector apps were time-saving (38%) and ease of use (33%) 
man wearing headphones while sitting on chair in front of MacBook

Photo by Wes Hicks

The most common criticism of current public-service provision was time wasted, with 29% of respondents feeling issues take too long to resolve and 28% finding the process of interacting with government services too time-consuming as a whole.  

In just the last 12 months, respondents spent on average 12 hours engaging with these services. Multiply that by the 54.7m people aged 16+ in the UK (according to ONS figures), and annually in the UK we spend the equivalent of 75,000 years in engaging with government-run public services. 

Just 31% had confidence in the government to deliver better digital services in future, while nearly half of respondents (47%) felt that government agencies would not be able to match the kinds of service found in the private sector.  

Indeed, trust is a major concern here. Some 30% of respondents were more likely to share their personal data with a private-sector company than a public-sector one to gain a more personalised service. That mistrust rose to 40% among Gen Z (those born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s) and to 42% among Millennials (those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s). For 42% of respondents, concerns around security and privacy are the chief concern in putting public services online.  

John Cheal, UK Government and Public Sector Director at Nortal, says: ‘The message from the UK is loud and clear – the standard of digital public services needs to improve. People today expect their digital experiences with the government to mirror the slick, seamless and simple interactions they get from private sector services. 

‘We’re still seeing too much time wasted by people when it comes to dealing with the government and waiting for issues to be resolved – time that can be better spent elsewhere. In an election year, improving the productivity of UK plc. will be a focus for the main parties and, it’s clear from our research that a simple way to do this – and give the country back 75,000 years worth of annual wasted hours – is to move faster in getting to a future with high-quality digital services at the core. But this must and can be done in a way that doesn’t leave segments of society behind.’ 

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