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Simpler, faster, more direct - advantages of the Internet are now also suggested by public authorities through the provision of eGovernment services. Despite these promises, public authorities are struggling hard to make their citizens willing to use eGovernment. Survey results show that eGovernment use has even been declining in Germany since 2012 and satisfaction with eGovernment offerings is also declining compared to the previous year and is even lower now than in 2012. However, there is also evidence that awareness of eGovernment offerings is increasing.
Although the offerings of public authorities are thus becoming better known, the willingness and satisfaction to use them is declining significantly. Rising data protection concerns also show a loss of public confidence in the offerings. However, the question arises as to whether the growing mistrust is directed against the Internet itself, against eGovernment offerings or against political institutions. Existing studies assumed that the use of eGovernment could have a positive influence on confidence in the government. This mechanism is based above all on the fact that eGovernment can bring citizens closer to politics and interaction with state institutions, and that political participation is made easier by the Internet. As a result, the willingness to use eGovernment would have to increase steadily, as trust in the government increases as a result of its use, which in turn leads to an increase in the use of eGovernment.
However, empirical data clearly show that this is not the case. The decline in willingness to use eGovernment as well as the declining trust in government and the resulting success of populist parties suggests that a reverse causal mechanism is possible. I assume that a lack of institutional confidence can have a negative impact on the use of eGovernment. Instead of bringing government closer to citizens falling institutional confidence can lead to a decline in the willingness to use eGovernment and hamper attempts for further digitalization. The increase in data protection concerns can also result from low institutional confidence.
The aim of this paper is therefore to conduct an own survey to analyze what influence trust and other factors have on the use of eGovernment among German citizens. A distinction is made between three different forms of trust, namely institutional trust, Internet trust and interpersonal trust. All three forms are attributed positive influences on the use of eGovernment, which can be derived from theoretical preliminary work. Based on the different forms of trust, an model of the influences on eGovernment use is developed. This model will also be supplemented with factors from theoretical approaches like Technology Acceptance Model and Diffusion of Innovations Theory that provide different explanatory factors for the acceptance and dissemination of new technologies.
Finally, the established model is empirically tested using own survey data. Not only can the direction and strength of the influences be identified from the survey, but it is also possible to derive characteristics that German citizens believe eGovernment offers must possess in order to increase their attractiveness for use. The results of the work contribute to understanding the phenomenon of eGovernment use and to showing recommendations as to how processes must be designed in order to increase their acceptance among the population. In addition, eGovernment services will be categorized in order to be able to carry out a precise analysis of the influences on the use of different services.
Multivariate linear regression models show that the influences of the variables differ greatly between the categories. Especially in the third category of eGovernment offerings, which require the most comprehensive data transmission, institutional trust shows a significantly positive influence. The effect of institutional trust, however, decreases significantly as confidence in the Internet increases. Contrary to the assumption, a high level of interpersonal trust does not seem to increase the willingness to use. The perceived benefit can be explained above all using participatory eGovernment services. The compatibility of the application with other behavior on the Internet also shows a significant influence, especially in the third category. Contrary to the assumption, a faster and more cost-effective processing of eGovernment services compared to the traditional procedure of dealing with the authorities with less effort in advance has no positive effect on their readiness to use them.