Brookings survey finds 51% prefer digital access to government services over phone calls or personal visits to agency offices

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Fifty-one percent of Americans prefer to access public services through digital technologies or mobile apps, according to a national survey conducted by researchers at the Brookings Institution. Only 13% say they prefer to access services by phone, 9% prefer to go personally to government offices and 27% do not know.

The survey was a nation-wide US online survey of 2,081 adult Internet users between February 5 and 7, 2019. It was overseen by Darrell M. West, vice president of governance studies and director of the Center for Technology Innovation from the Brookings Institution and the author of The future of work: robots, AI and automation. Responses were weighted using gender, age, and region to match national Internet population demographics as estimated by the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

Perspectives on digital service delivery

We asked whether using digital technologies saves cities money, improves productivity, or exposes people to cybersecurity issues. Forty-seven percent say it saves money, 51% think it improves productivity, and 49% think it raises cybersecurity issues.

Use of mobile applications

With the ubiquity of smartphones, some government agencies have developed mobile applications for the delivery of public services. We asked people if they had used a mobile app in the past year to access public services. Thirty-six percent say they have done it, 43 percent say they haven’t, and 21 percent don’t know if they have.

When asked to rate the quality of mobile apps, 27% said they were positive, 26% were negative, and 47% didn’t know.

We asked people what kind of mobile app for utilities they would like, and 31% said it was an app for parking and transportation issues, 25% for public security, 9% for fiscal services, 4% for water and air quality and 31%. are uncertain.

Encourage cities to invest

Almost half say they would encourage cities to invest financial resources in technologies designed to provide access to public services. When asked about investments in mobile applications, 45% would encourage cities to do so, 21 would discourage cities and 34% are unsure. When it comes to digital technologies in general, 43% would encourage cities to invest, 21% would discourage them and 36% are unsure.

How does digital technology help?

To find out if people think digital technologies would help residents cope with urban issues like parking and transportation, we asked them for their global perspective. Twenty percent say digital technologies help residents a lot, 33 percent think they help some, 16 percent think the technologies don’t help much, and 31 percent are unsure.

Survey Questions and Answers

1. Some cities are using digital technologies to help residents cope with urban issues such as parking or transportation. To what extent do you think technologies are helping to solve these problems?

  • 16% not much
  • 33% some
  • 20% a lot
  • 31% don’t know or no answer

2. Would you encourage cities to invest financial resources in digital technologies that allow citizens to access public services?

  • 12% strongly discourage
  • 9% discourage
  • 24% encourage
  • 19% strongly encourage
  • 36% do not know or no answer

3. Would you encourage cities to invest financial resources in mobile applications that allow people to access public services?

  • 11% strongly discourage
  • 10% discourage
  • 26% encourage
  • 19% strongly encourage
  • 34% don’t know or no answer

4. Do you prefer to access public services through digital technologies / mobile apps, by calling government offices or by personally visiting government offices?

  • 51% digital / mobile
  • 13% call government offices
  • 9% personally visit government offices
  • 27% do not know or no answer

5. During the past year, have you used a mobile application allowing you to access public services?

  • 43% no
  • 36% yes
  • 21% don’t know or no answer

6. Overall, how would you rate the quality of these mobile applications?

  • 14% very negative
  • 12% somewhat negative
  • 18% somewhat positive
  • 9% very positive
  • 47% don’t know or no answer

7. In which area would you most appreciate having a mobile application for public services?

  • 25% public safety
  • 31% parking and transport
  • 9% of tax services
  • 4% water and air quality
  • 31% don’t know or no answer

8. Do you think that using digital technologies for service delivery saves cities money?

  • 19% no
  • 47% yes
  • 34% don’t know or no answer

9. Do you think the use of digital technologies for service delivery improves productivity?

  • 18% no
  • 51% yes
  • 31% don’t know or no answer

10. Do you think that using digital technologies for service delivery exposes people to cybersecurity issues?

  • 21% no
  • 49% yes
  • 30% don’t know or no answer

Genre:

  • 51.7% men, 48.3% women in the sample
  • 47.9% men, 52.1% women in the target population

Age:

  • 8.4% 18-24, 16.2% 25-34, 15.9% 35-44, 20.5% 45-54, 21.8% 55-64, 17.2% 65+ in the sample
  • 13.9% 18-24, 19.4% 25-34, 17.8% 35-44, 18.3% 45-54, 16.4% 55-64, 14.2% 65+ in target population

Region:

  • 14.6% northeast, 28.3% Midwest, 36.7% south, 20.4% west in the sample
  • 18.0% Northeast, 22.0% Midwest, 36.4% South, 23.6% West in target population

Survey methodology

This online survey interviewed 2,081 adult Internet users in the United States on February 5 and 7, 2019 via the Google surveys Platform. Responses were weighted using gender, age, and region to match national Internet population demographics as estimated by the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

In the 2012 presidential election, Google Surveys was the second most accurate survey national surveys according to survey expert Nate Silver. In addition, the Pew Research Center undertook a detailed evaluation of Google Surveys and found them generally representative of the demographic profile of national Internet users. Comparing the results of Google Survey to its own telephone polls on 43 different substantive questions, the Pew researchers found a median difference of about three percentage points between Google’s online polls and Pew’s phone polls. A 2016 analysis Google surveys published in the peer-reviewed methodological journal Political analysis by political scientists at Rice University replicated a number of research findings and concluded “GCS [Google Consumer Surveys] is likely to be a useful platform for survey experimenters.

This research was made possible by Google surveys, who donated their online survey platform. Questions and conclusions are solely those of the researchers and are not influenced by any donation. For more information on the methodology, see the Google Polls White Paper.

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