Nearly a year ago, the federal government relaeased its Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People report. In that document, government officials set progressive and aggressive deadlines to keep digital government moving in a more citizen-centric direction. Those deadlines should come to fruition on May 23, 2013.

As the E-Government Satisfaction Index notes, the web arm of the digital government is doing very well and has been steady in terms of citizen satisfaction for some time now, hovering around the 75 mark (on the study’s 100-point scale) for 14 of the last 15 quarters. As government officials appear to understand the importance of measuring the citizen experience on websites, the next challenge in citizen engagement is measuring the mobile experience.

Measuring mobile makes sense considering the growth in popularity and ownership of smartphones and tablets in recent years. In their February 2013 report, ComScore showed that nearly 126 million people in the United States owned smartphones – that’s 54% mobile market penetration – during the last quarter of 2012. Pew Research shows that in January of 2012, 45 million U.S. adults owned tablets, and this number grew to 59 million (25% of the adult population) by August 2012, a 32% growth in just eight months.

This rapid growth underscores the importance of mobile. It’s where the future is. But the future is now. If that’s where consumers are going, then that’s where the federal government needs to be focusing its efforts.

Come May 2013, according to the Digital Government report, it is expected that agencies “optimize at least two existing priority cutomer-facing services for mobile use and publish a plan for improving additional existing services.”

While navigating a new frontier can seem daunting, using the right measurement methodology can serve as a compass tohelp point agency leaders and government officials in the right direction as they begin traversing the mobile landscape. This is especially true in the public sector as agencies and organizations live and die by how they prioritize and spend their very limited funding. Therefore, it is vital that agencies get it right from the start and avoid costly mistakes.

To get an idea of how mobile measures up in the digital government, ForeSee examined 14 federal Index participants that asked additional questions regarding citizen mobile experiences. The mobile ad-ons in this study accumulated almost 68,000 survey responses. This is what researchers found at an aggregate level:

About half (51%) of respondents reported ever using a mobile phone or tablet to access the internet, which is up significantly from 48% when first measured in Q4 2012. In other words, about half of visitors to the participating federal websites reported never having used mobile to access the internet.

About a third (32%) of people reported having accessed any federal website using a mobile phone or tablet.

  • 16% said they didn’t, but planned to
  • 40% said they didn’t, but might
  • 13% said they didn’t and did not plan to

Forty percent of people said they accessed the specific website they were on by either a mobile phone or tablet.

  • 18% said they didn’t, but planned to
  • 32% said they didn’t, but might
  • 10% said they didn’t and did not plan to

A large number of people reported that they either “plan to” or “might” visit federal government websites via a mobile device, which creates a huge opportunity for these agencies. If agency leaders listen to what the citizens want in a mobile experience, they can build an experience that will encourage citizens to return to, recommend, and use the mobile site as a primary resource over a more expensive channel, thus saving crucial budget dollars.

Click here to download a full copy of the report, which includes some of the best practices of providing a great mobile experience for citizens and consumers from Matthew Dull, a usability team lead with ForeSee.

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