More than 60 per cent of Canada’s online population are turning to public sector Web sites, a sign our Government On-Line strategy may be working, an Internet audience measurement firm said Monday.

In the period between November of 2002 and January of this year some sites, like that of Canada

Customs and Revenue Agency, experienced a 155 per cent change in the number of unique visitors, said comScore Media Metrix Canada. Apart from federal sites, provincial portals are also attracting visitors, particularly in Alberta and Ontario. Overall, comScore said 33 per cent of Canadians are turning to government sites as a form of communications channel.

Brent Lowe-Bernie, president of comScore Media Metrix Canada, said part of the success stems from an integrated marketing strategy deployed throughout all levels of government.

“”If there is a TV commercial or a direct mail piece, they’re making sure to point out on that there is a Web site,”” he said. “”You’re going to see more non-government advertisers start doing that. It makes sense to tie these things together.””

On a per-capita basis, Canada is a fairly wired country — Lowe-Bernie said about 53 per cent of the population is using the Internet each month. Canadians also tend to be high-speed users, which will make it easier to pursue content to download a document or file their taxes online.

Consulting firm Accenture has placed Canada at the top of its annual e-government rankings for the past three years, and Lowe-Bernie said comScore’s traffic statistics back up our perception as a leader. The United States, in contrast, has a 44 per cent audience reach, while the UK and France attract 36 and 35 per cent of their online constituents, respectively.

William Eggers, director of public sector research at Deloitte Research, said it might be misleading to evaluate GOL based on traditional site measurement.

“”I don’t think those are good metrics at all, really,”” said Eggers, who wrote a report last year called Citizen Advantage at Deloitte. “”You want to look to what extent you’re able to move from paper-based delivery in transactions to electronic. That doesn’t mean they have to come to a government Web site to do it.””

The key point, Eggers said, is private sector partners, provincial partners or business associations as a channel, it will save the same amount of money as if citizens came to the government’s own Web site.

Lowe-Bernie admitted that traffic alone does not tell the full story.

“”There are certainly areas that need to be built out more,”” he said. “”It’s great to have a site that will allow people to pursue information, but if they can’t download a form and have to have it mailed to me, we’re not quite there yet. That’s kind of going half-way.””

Eggers said design philosophy can play an important role in attracting and retaining Government On-Line users.

“”The thing about Canada that always gets so much attention is that you have this singular look and feel across all these federal agencies,”” he said. “”No other federal kind of government that I know of has that.””

Canadians who most use e-government services tend to be 35 years or older, have household incomes under $60,000 and no children, according to the comScore data.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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