Trust, Ease of Use and Accessibility: New Booz Allen Survey Analyzes How COVID-19 Has Impacted Use of Digital Government Services

Mar 4, 2021 8:00 AM ET

In the name of increasing access, convenience, efficiency, and equity, federal agencies have been digitizing and modernizing services, from business loan applications to veteran health benefits. While COVID-19 has increased adoption of online government, many people still prefer engaging with agencies by phone, mail, and in person—and some even perceive these methods as faster. 

Which groups haven’t been going online for government information and services? What obstacles stand in their way—and how can agencies address these barriers? 

Booz Allen Hamilton and Morning Consult surveyed 2,000 people in December 2020 to find out how behaviors and preferences have changed related to federal services since COVID-19. Here are some of the highlights of those findings.

Perceptions and trust still impede digital equity

The survey revealed broad overall awareness of and access to online government services.

  • 97% of respondents have access to the internet at home. 

  • 92% said they were even more likely to access the internet from a device at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 70% said they are aware they can get federal services information or support they need online rather than in person, on the phone, or by mail.

Yet a “digital divide” still exists in America, with cost and access remaining a barrier for some, in addition to a disconnect between awareness and usage for others. For example, 61% of respondents still believe they can access government services faster in person, by phone, or through the mail than they can online. 

While certain demographics, like the 35-44 age segment, reported a definite preference for online government services, other groups were less positive. Respondents over the age of 65, along with participants who do not have a college education, were less likely to report that they prefer to use digital government services. 

Many survey respondents also expressed concern about data privacy.

  • 7 out of 10 respondents said they were “somewhat concerned” about protecting their information on the Internet.

  • 6 out of 10 said they trust financial and health care institutions more than government organizations to keep their personal information private.

  • When sharing personal information, respondents tended to trust desktops and laptops more than mobile phones or tablets.

Keeping innovation going for increased digital adoption  

At the same time, the survey reported that many Americans are ready for a digital-first future. For example, 40% of respondents said they would be comfortable with the government eventually keeping a digital profile for them—eliminating the need to input similar information in multiple places and creating a more seamless experience for citizen-government interactions.

Digital government services are already becoming a reality. “Our federal IT partners are the vanguards of digital customer experience—creating products that deliver new value with every interaction,” said Booz Allen Executive Vice President Julie McPherson, who leads Booz Allen’s Digital Solutions business. “COVID-19 has forced new thinking, accelerating bold innovation to drive necessary change in digital government services to meet existing and new needs of citizens.”

So how can agencies harness the momentum of the past year and encourage more people to use online government services?

  • Keep improving and enhancing online platforms to respond to users’ changing needs.

  • Make digital services more efficient, responsive, and transparent through customer feedback, continuous improvements, and stronger governance of customer experience. 

  • Deepen understanding of users and engagement through data analysis that examines why some population segments use digital platforms less. 

“This critical work and analysis—such as the findings of this survey—must continue so that the Federal Government can continue to deliver on services that transform everyday experiences for us all,” McPherson said.

Learn more about Booz Allen’s digital solutions work for federal agencies and innovation at Booz Allen.