A report from the Australian Federal Government has found that Australians would rather use the Internet to interact with government services than to talk to someone face to face. According to Interacting with Government 2009, people aged 55 to 64 were also the most frequent users of the Internet as a means of interaction with government. You can read more in this story from Darren Pauli at ComputerWorld Australia.
Government is set to be one of the biggest users of the Internet as a mechanism for delivering services to consumers. Already numerous services from filing a tax return to registering a car are commonly handled on the Internet, and more will follow.
Of course, as more services move online, the obvious side effect is that physical service delivery through offices is downgraded, leading to a disadvantaged situation for those members of the community who are not connected.
There are plenty of possible solutions however. It could well be the libraries or post offices that become the main place of transaction delivery for these citizens, providing free Internet access and replacing numerous government office functions. There is also potential for web-services to be voice-enabled and offered over the telephone, rather than through a screen.
Alternately, perhaps the government might even look at a pricing model for the NBN that gives free access to government services, much as a hotel gives free access to guest services, while restricting access to the rest of the web to paying customers. This of course still requires the user to have their own hardware, but with the cost of netbooks and routers plummeting, this too could be subsidised and provided as a basic right.