May 24, 2004

How Americans Get in Touch With Government

Part 5. Implications for Policymakers

Implications for Policymakers

Americans clearly value multiple tools as ways to navigate through their interactions with government. E-government is an innovation in service delivery that many embrace, but people still use other means – most prominently the telephone – to get hold of the government. Using these various tools, Americans tend to be successful in their interactions with government, although success depends on the type of problem people have with government and their problem-solving skills. These findings yield several implications for policymakers and the interested public:

  • E-government initiatives do not exist in isolation from other ways of contacting government. People will turn to different means to contact government for different problems.
  • Policymakers should study how different means of contact may complement each other in helping citizens address problems.
  • In designing e-government, policymakers should recognize that the payoff to e-gov investments varies according to type of problem and people’s preferences in how they address different problems.
  • People’s problem-solving abilities matter. Success in addressing people’s issues with government depends partly on people’s level of education, in addition to a problem’s degree of difficulty.
  • For people with special needs – the 14% of the population that has a disability of some sort – non-cyber means of contacting government are primary.
  • Given that 36% of adult Americans do not go online, maintaining robust non-cyber means of contacting government will remain important for some time.