Citizens in seven leading countries suggest that the gap between government and the private sector is narrowing when it comes to delivering services electronically, according to a newly-released study.

Though the research reaffirms that governments have more work to do-and that some nations, such as Singapore, are much farther along than others in serving citizens electronically-the study’s findings also suggest that governments have come farther in their game of catch up with the private sector than many observers have suspected.

Nearly half (44%) of 1,400 citizens surveyed in Australia, France, Germany, India, Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom believe that interacting with their government is easy, according to the study, conducted for Accenture.

Perhaps more significantly, almost one-third (31%) say it’s actually easier to access services from the government than private-sector companies, the study found.

More than 70% of the survey respondents already use the Internet for submitting and tracking government forms and payments, according to the study, and more than half (53%) say they want to use more online channels in the future.

The study drew several conclusions and recommendations that government officials might consider in how best to interact with citizens online and through mobile devices:

  • Ride the wave. Positive citizen perceptions around access to government through both traditional and digital channels provide an excellent starting point for governments.

  • In with the new. To build effective digital government services that are consistently used by citizens, governments must avoid the trap of simply replicating and digitizing old processes that are inherently ineffective.

  • Mind the gap. While many citizens are connected, the digital divide is still a critical concern in countries as diverse as the United States and India.

  • Knowledge is power. Many governments have understandably moved toward digital government as a means to work more efficiently and effectively. However, governments should not lose sight of the fact that the best digital programs give citizens what they want.

  • Create one door. As digital programs mature, it will continue to be important to create consistent “one-stop-shopping” service experiences for citizens that leverage automation, customization and customer-insight analytics.

  • Build on trust. While data ownership and security are clearly points of concern among citizens that must be addressed, there is a silver lining to consider. The majority of respondents want to conduct all of their government business via digital channels in the future.

“Digital citizens are empowered in ways that previous generations could only imagine,” said Stephen J. Rohleder, group chief executive, who leads Accenture’s global Health & Public Service business.

“They can initiate and dictate the dynamics of citizen-to-government relationships with a tweet, blog post or Facebook message sent to hundreds of people from their smart phone. And high performing governments are working now to reshape the way they deliver public services to meet the new demands of their citizens.”

The study found that Singapore and India are further along in their digital interactions with citizens to varying extents compared to other countries.

One explanation for that is that rapid rise of mobile phone use. Nearly three-quarters of respondents in both countries said they would be willing to access government websites on mobile devices and apps.

At the same time, while 60% of 10 U.S. citizens and 65% of Australians surveyed said they would not use social media to contact a government official, nearly 70% of respondents in Singapore and India would.

Key findings among U.S citizens surveyed:

  • 75% routinely use websites and portals to access government services. (Of the other countries surveyed, only Singapore had a higher percentage – 82% percent.
  • 40% currently use government websites that are available on mobile devices or mobile apps.
  • 60% would not use social media to contact a government official to request a service or resolve a problem.
  • 71% said however they would accept renewal alerts for documents and licenses electronically and 65% would be willing to have emergency broadcast alerts sent electronically or digitally.
  • 57% would like the U.S. government to be more integrated to better share information across different agencies; only 30% do not want the government to have access to all their personal data.

Two-thirds of those completing the online survey overall were between 18 years and 45 years of age at the time of the study, according to Molly Huie, senior research analyst, Market Connections, which conducted the study for Accenture in November 2011.