Concerns around privacy and security risks are risking the participation of more than half the global population in governments’ various digital services drives.
A new survey by EY found that 53% of the respondents believe that privacy and security risks around how their data is shared outweigh the benefits of adopting the various digital services deployed.
Over the past year, the pandemic has increased the need for governments to offer more services remotely and, in some cases, they have been delivered entirely online, which has resulted in the generation of much larger volumes of citizens' data collected by governments.
“The survey findings should be a wake-up call for governments across the world. The benefits of a more digital State, including increased efficiency, better value for taxpayers and better quality of service for citizens, will be significantly reduced if large segments of the population are not convinced of them and are at risk of disengaging from increasingly digitized public services,” said EY Global government and public sector consulting leader Arnauld Bertrand.
“Many individuals could potentially be alienated, which could quickly become a dangerous problem for citizens, governments and society as a whole.”
The survey, ‘How can digital government connect citizens without leaving the disconnected behind?’, found that three-quarters, or 72%, of the 12 100 respondents across 12 countries are opposed to governments selling their personal data to a private sector company, even where the objective is to fund better public services or tax cuts.
The responses show that 46% of the respondents think data should not be shared between the public and private sectors, with only 29% saying that it should be shared, while 41% think data should not be shared within the public sector and only 33% believe that it should be.
While the survey, which was conducted by Ipsos MORI, reflects optimism by 72% of the respondents that technology improves quality of life, there are significant concerns about its broader impact.
“Many believe that increased use of technology will potentially widen social inequalities, with 32% stating that technology will lead to greater social inequality and 34% stating that technology gives more power to those who are already rich and powerful,” said Bertrand.
“There are further concerns around the impact of increased reliance on technology as a means for communication on social cohesion. Globally, 32% of citizens believe technology will make people feel less connected to their communities.”
The survey revealed, however, that 61% of the respondents would be likely to use government training schemes that improve their digital skills if they were available.
While digitisation is here to stay, there is a long way to go in communicating the benefits to citizens and addressing their concerns.
“Governments should demonstrate that they can be trusted to deliver safe, secure and improved digital services that will benefit all citizens. Just as importantly, they need to bring their citizens with them; access and skills are just as vital as the services being available in the first place,” Bertrand concluded.