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Survey: Most Americans Just Not That Into Uncle Sam's Digital Services

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Less than half of American adults who use the Internet at least once a week want the federal government to dive deeper into digital service delivery, according to a Forrester Research study released Tuesday.

Last year saw the launch of both two government tech teams designed to help agencies whip their digital offerings into shape, the General Services Administration's 18F team and the U.S. Digital Service. Next year, the White House plans to devote tens of millions of dollars more to digital services, according to the report. In other words, the federal government has clearly caught the digital bug.

Still, the survey is clear, the public remains fairly uninterested in federal digital services -- at least so far.

“Despite the administration’s success in improving both the quantity and the quality of digital experiences, the public’s interest remains only lukewarm,” the study stated.

The survey polled over 4,500 American adults.

When asked how respondents interact with federal agencies, 40 percent cited in-person visits to an agency's branch location -- the same number that cited visiting an agency website. Just 20 percent of respondents said they communicated with agencies via email, according to the survey. 

The popularity of using postal mail or a phone to interact with agencies was much more popular than Facebook, mobile apps or Twitter, with the latter only hovering at about 2 percent.

When asked to rate the appeal of replacing current Social Security cards with a digital version, less than half of those polled -- 40 percent -- said it sounded “appealing.” 

Privacy concerns surrounding federal websites are widespread, the report noted. Only 35 percent of those polled said they trust these agencies to keep their personal information private.

The survey also indicated most Americans don't think federal websites are all that user friendly. Less than half of respondents said they tend to get what they came for when visiting agency websites.

“Our data shows that many people don’t want new digital channels because they don’t understand the advantages,” stated the report.

The majority of respondents said they are in favor of the government creating a single Web portal, which allows the public to log in to all federal accounts in one place.

The creation of such a system might also decrease the current 40 percent of adults who said they are overwhelmed by the plethora of agency websites.

The study recommended agencies become more strategic about how they improve digital services, and focus more attention on improving already created customer-experience tools rather than continually launching new ones.

The report also suggested getting rid of the least popular tools, and focusing more attention and funding on the popular ones.

(Image via majcot/ Shutterstock.com)

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