October 13, 2021

October 23, 2023

Public confidence in accessing public services online skyrockets during pandemic

A new report commissioned by BT and developed by PUBLIC “The Future of Digital Government: A blueprint for the future of digital public services in the UK“ has found that 60% of UK citizens are more confident accessing public services online than they were before COVID-19.

● 60% of people are more confident using digital public services than before COVID-19.
● 75% now say they would feel comfortable accessing digital public services via their smartphone
● BT and PUBLIC’s report reveals pandemic has radically shifted people’s experiences and
attitudes towards digital public services

A new report commissioned by BT and developed by PUBLIC “The Future of Digital Government: A blueprint for the future of digital public services in the UK“ has found that 60% of UK citizens are more confident accessing public services online than they were before COVID-19.

In a survey of more than 1,000 UK citizens, a further 75% also say they now would feel comfortable accessing digital public services via their smartphone, suggesting an opportunity gap that exists between people’s current usage and their openness towards engaging fully with future digital public services.

However, the report finds that despite the recent push towards digital services during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 50% of UK citizens - with full access to the internet - access public services online at most a few times a year, sitting  far below digital front-runners such as Denmark, Estonia, and South Korea, whose citizens conduct as much as 80% of their interactions with government online.

The report suggests that the lack of UK public engagement with services online is due to the variable quality of these services across the public sector. 15% of citizens say they have had to repeat using digital public services because they were unable to resolve their issues after a single interaction, expressing frustration at confusing interfaces and technical issues. It also finds that, despite a positive view of many services built by central government departments during the pandemic, over one third (33%) of citizens have still experienced public services that are nominally ‘digitised’, but which require them to submit a paper form, make a phone call or visit a location in-person. As a result, the general public is very supportive (73%) of the introduction of a government digital identity solution that can mean less offline steps and faster and more joined-up services.

The report also shows that although 43% of people are now more confident in the government's ability to handle citizen data than they were before COVID-19, a majority remain unsure or less confident in Government’s ability to handle data and provide digital public services. Despite this, since COVID-19,people are more willing to share their data with Government to improve public services, as long as it is used transparently and appropriately. Transparency remains a key concern for the general public, with a majority (80%) stating that they would feel more comfortable using public services if there was greater transparency around the use of their data and  of complex technologies used in the public sector.

Commenting on the findings, Rob Shuter, CEO, BT’s Enterprise unit said: “This report highlights that people’s confidence in using digital public services has grown substantially since the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can’t afford to stall on the progress made. For the UK to regain its position as a truly world-leading digital government, it must supercharge its efforts to provide citizens with a seamless   digital   experience.  This starts  with ensuring  government bodies have the strongest connectivity, followed by a suite of integrated digital services that are easy to use, reliable, secure and ultimately provide a better quality of outcome for everyone.”

Daniel   Korski,   CEO   and   Co-Founder   at   PUBLIC,   said:  “The private sector has totally transformed people’s expectations of what digital services can and should provide through a relentless focus on user experience. Quality, personalisation, responsiveness are no longer considered a luxury or an extra add-on but core to success.

In  this  report we put   citizen experience right at the heart of redesigning public services. By understanding how and why citizens find services inaccessible, frustrating, and difficult to use, we highlight the clear opportunity to improve these services rapidly and bring profound benefits to people’s lives. Our recommendations are a series of initial steps for policymakers and designers to ensure that citizen needs and experiences remain at the centre of service design and delivery right across the public sector. By following these steps, Government can ensure that it builds accessible, secure and transparent services that fit better around people’s lives.”


Notes to Editor

PUBLIC has authored this report with support from BT to refocus digital public services on better outcomes for citizens, putting the user at the heart of service design across the public sector. The report is built on insights from a survey of >1,000 UK citizens to capture experiences and attitudes towards digital public services, especially during COVID-19, exploring present experiences of public and private sector services and attitudes towards potential future features (such as Digital ID and data sharing for seamless services). The full report can be viewed here.

About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.


PUBLIC helps reimagine and build digitally-enabled public services. Led by Daniel Korski, ex-deputy head of the No.10 policy unit and venture investor Alexander de Carvalho, PUBLIC helps public sector bodies transform the services they offer in order to create a better society for everyone.


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