Our Survey Says …

An interesting survey of a few US e-government initiatives says:

Only 11 percent of those surveyed said they had visited Recreation.gov; 12 percent had used GovBenefits.gov, and just 22 percent were aware of Free File


most Americans say they find the information on government Web sites useful — once they find them. According to the survey, more than half of all respondents said they would visit GovBenefits.gov now that they know it allows people to find out if they are eligible for certain government benefits, including mortgage loans and health coverage


With 60 percent of Americans unable to name a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government, Web sites such as FirstGov must be easy for the public to navigate without knowing which agency or level of government offers a particular service

It seems those that do find the sites find them via Google. That’s no surprise. What about all the folks who don’t find them though? Or the ones that find the wrong site?

With thousands of government websites (pick any country, divide the population count by 20,000 and that’s how many government sites they’ll have), finding the right one with the up to date information that you want is a challenge. More to the point perhaps, finding the wrong one with out of date information is less of a challenge and more of a problem – as someone at Macromedia said to me yesterday

“the fact that I can google meeting notes that I wrote 10 years ago as a legalislative aide is scary. that information has long since been updated and superceded”

This story in FCW coincided with me reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal, “Web Banks Pay More to Stay Cheap” (available via the WSJ site if you have a subscription). The main points raised there are:

HSBC spent 7 times more per customer on marketing for its First Direct Internet operation than for its regular retail business

Egg, which didn’t give numbers, says not having a branch network from which to launch campaigns makes things more costly. They did, however, say that the cost of acquiring one customer is £33, about 40% below the UK average.

Cahoot says it costs 90% less to open a retail account online versus at a branch and about 50% less to manage the account.

Governments have a branch network, but I wonder whether they use it as the marketing base to drive customers to the website? And, if they don’t, how many spend 7 times their offline marketing budget to drive citizens online?

As an aside, one of the things I find frustrating here is writing the word “citizen”. I don’t see myself as a citizen and so the word just doesn’t fit. Every article I’ve read whilst over here in the USA continuely refers to the population as “Americans”, as in “My fellow Americans”. That, though, doesn’t seem to work in the UK … Brits, Europeans, English, Scots, Welsh, Irish or just plain “people”?

You cannot, I think, effectively market dozens of sites. You can just about market just one. The battle for one site versus 3,000+ is only just starting; I think though that the war is won, but people on the inside just don’t know it yet – there will be many skirmishes and much resistance but, ultimately, common sense will prevail and there will be just one. After all, there can be only one.

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