Academic journal article European Research Studies

Factors Impacting the Low Usage of E-Services in Latvia

Academic journal article European Research Studies

Factors Impacting the Low Usage of E-Services in Latvia

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Both public (state and municipalities) as well as private organizations provide their services in an electronically accessible format making them easier, faster, and more appropriate for users' needs and habits (Akopova & Przhedetskaya, 2016). In Latvia, state institutions have made a large part of their services electronically available in recent years--more than 480 services are electronically accessible via the portal www.latvija.lv, and the availability of e-services still tends to increase.

Although in last decade the number of digitally available services has significantly grown, there is a situation in Latvia when a relatively high number of users give preference to use on-site services--in face-to-face communication, rather than uses e-services. This refers also to the recent years, and the Table 1 shows that the usage of e-services by individuals is increasing over time.

As we can see from the Table 1, the percentage of available public e-services that are fully available electronically have been continually growing since year 2013 reaching the score 85.4 in year 2015 (the measurement is the share of the steps in a public service life event that can be completed online). Also, the percentage of individuals interacting online with public authorities has been growing steadily from 35.4 % in year 2013 to 69.5% in year 2016. Still the percentage of users' activity is lower when it is necessary to perform specific actions, for example, to fill-in and send documents to the public authorities. The opportunity to send electronic documents to public authorities has been used only by 30.8% of individuals, although all public authorities now accept documents signed with e-signature.

At the same time, in year 2016, for the first time in Latvia, percentage of individuals interacting online with public authorities exceeds the percentage of individuals using online banking. It means that people more and more have used Internet for interaction with public authorities including also obtaining information from public authorities' web sites, downloading official forms or sending filled in forms. Overall, despite the availability and technological flexibility of many pubic e-services in Latvia, users do not choose some e-services as frequently as their developers might wish. The aim of the current research was to find out, which e-services users prefer and why, on the contrary, they do not choose to use some e-services.

2. Theoretical Framework

The reasons for avoiding e-services could be various - partly technological, partly socio-cognitive. On the one hand, e-services eventually do not meet users' needs from a technological perspective. This in its turn might be due to two interacting sets of reasons. First, the technological tools do not provide sufficient functionality to fulfil needs that are normally executed in face-to-face situations of interaction. Second, the system of infrastructures including variety of technological, artificial, human, and hybrid factors do not enable the successful use of e-services (Star, 2002, Star & Ruhleder, 1996, Krupa et al, 2015). Although there are no systematic studies of the infrastructures and ecosystems of information systems and their impact on the usability of e-services in Latvia, according to the current observations we see no indications for assuming that the infrastructures or technological tools might prevent users from choosing digital instead of analogue format of interaction.

On the other hand, users might have a variety of socio-cognitive or perceptual barriers discouraging them from using e-services. These barriers can be related to technological problems (such as data security) or cognitive factors - such as fear of making mistakes in virtual environments lacking direct human interaction. According to seminal research by Weiser & Brown (1997) it is crucial for the success in digital systems of interaction that the user has impression that he or she controls the situation. …

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