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Canadian Government Goes On -- Consumers Come Off

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 02 July 2002 00:00

While the Canadian government wins accolades in eGovernment leadership, topping 22 other countries in offering government services online , Statistics Canada reports more than 813,000 Canadian households have given up their access to the Internet. More than a quarter of those canceling home-access to the Internet were weekly users.

For the second year in a row, Canada leads the international pack studied annually by Accenture, an international management and technology organization. According to the study , "Canada is midway through its ambitious five-year goal to become the world's most citizen-connected government by 2004 (the government has made 2005 its new deadline). By that date, the country plans to provide Canadians with electronic access to all federal programs and services, at the time and place of their choosing."

Since many Canadians feel that government frustrates consumers in face-to-face service delivery this access goal seems long overdue -- and very welcome if it means at-home convenience.

But what if the government gives a party and nobody comes? Are Canadians out of sync with their government -- turning off electronically just when the feds have a big push on?

Access through the workplace may be one reason for discontinuing home access, but disillusionment with the Internet is also significant. Thirty per cent of disconnection was attributed to a lack of need, 17 per cent found the at-home service too expensive and 14 per cent had lost access to a computer. For Canadians who view the Internet purely as entertainment, rising cable television or satellite costs may be eating up the family entertainment budget. Disconnection due to dissatisfaction with connection service providers was not measured in the study.

Despite the exodus, overall Internet use in Canada increased by 10 per cent in the same year the number of dropouts rose. In 1999, 4.8 million households used the Internet, compared with more than 6 million in 2000, an increase from 41.8 per cent to 51.3 per cent.

Not all Canadians want to be able to do everything from the comfort of their own home, even if they could. The ease of doing by-the-books online transactions with the government must be balanced with easy access to well-informed, professionally-trained individuals. A government that caters to a popular online trend may develop services that favour online participation, ignoring the 10.3 million Canadians who have never used the Internet -- at home or anywhere -- and those who want to chose which high-quality method of service delivery would best suit their needs at the time.

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PJ Wade

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