Recent research shows a high rate of digital dropouts for government services, but what does this actually mean?

Why do so many citizens abandon registration for government services?

When asked about the impact of this high abandonment rate, almost a quarter of government IT leaders said it prevented them from reaching their financial goals. At the same time, a fifth complained that it damaged reputation.

So, what is causing these digital dropouts and how can it be improved?

A recent study, State of Intelligent Automation Report, Customer Onboarding Pain Points and Drivers, conducted by Sapio Research on behalf of ABBYY looked at the reasons behind abandonment during digital sign-up:

Seven key factors were cited:

  • Too many steps/takes too long (54%)
  • Too much manual entry or repetition of the required information (50%)
  • Proof of identity process too difficult (26%)
  • Unsatisfactory communication (25%)
  • Missing a human element (24%)
  • Missing the necessary information or documents (21%)

The research showed that the more time-consuming and complex an onboarding process appears, the greater the risk of abandonment. It’s widely known that online registration for government services is historically susceptible to these factors, with federal platforms like being notoriously cumbersome and invasive. There is definitely room for improvement which could bring significant benefits to government agencies, according to the survey. Respondents believe a 50% reduction in abandonment rates would increase revenue by 20% and raise customer acquisition by 26%. In addition, 32% of IT leaders stated that halving abandonment rates would “greatly improve” their reputation, which is a key goal for government agencies struggling with low consumer trust.

Sophisticated technology can prevent digital dropouts

Achieving those goals means the use of sophisticated technology like artificial intelligence, which the government has made a priority in line with its National AI Initiative Act. The Act aims to accelerate AI programs across the entire federal government and prepare the US workforce for the integration of AI systems in all sectors of the economy and society. That includes applications that boost the nation’s security.

With the survey showing security/proof of identity being a major hurdle for citizens signing onto government services, AI must be incorporated into onboarding to heighten safety and spot fraudulent activity, especially as the majority of people now prefer self-service options, rather than going to a physical office and standing in line. Identifying fakes is obviously crucial, given the amount of unemployment fraud and forged IDs being used to gain digital access to government services. Modern onboarding platforms will use AI to detect unique security features for authenticity and doctoring. At the same time, live biometrics/real-time facial capture ensures there’s a human online who matches the photo on their ID. For example, the DMV in California is using this technology to ensure millions of driving licenses are compliant with the Federal REAL ID Act for the issuing of REAL ID. Residents can complete the whole process conveniently online instead of having to make an in-person visit to the DMV office.

45% of IT decision-makers in the government sector plan to add sophisticated technology to streamline and modify their current onboarding processes

However, even this digital ID process must be a straightforward and seamless experience so that you’re not faced with constituents dropping out. It’s reassuring to see that the survey revealed 45% of IT decision-makers in the government sector plan to add sophisticated technology to streamline and modify their current onboarding processes. And when it comes to choosing which would be incorporated for improvements, 21% cited process intelligence along with intelligent document processing (21%) and mobile capture (20%) as the top three choices. In doing so, they believe this would dramatically improve overall customer experience by up to 43%.

People still desire to interact with people live

Conversely, despite plans for such advanced technology to be introduced, there is no denying that people still like to interact with a live person – with the research showing ‘missing a human element’ is a top reason for digital dropout (24%). Clearly, the best kind of digital onboarding considers a fine balance between technology and human contact. Investing in the right mix of the two will better streamline how citizens prove and affirm their identities which will dramatically improve the user experience and enable them to have access to services faster.

In support of this, it will mean better staff training, so employees can cope with the dual role of using artificial intelligence while maintaining human relations.

Some agencies are already making investments to enhance their worker’s understanding of AI and training staff on best practices. For example, the Army is undergoing a program of internal upskilling and recruiting. And the Navy recently spent approximately $27 million to expand its Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minorities program to cast a wider net for recruiting IT talent to produce more advanced technologies. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are also being used as part of the army’s job promotion process.

Instead of officers meeting in Texas and spending three weeks sifting through the thousands of potential candidates, a computer program will capture and asses the data from individual personal files to speed up scoring before sending them to selection boards – meaning the whole process can be completed in just three days.

Similarly, the FDA used the same technology – intelligent document processing – to fast-track the analysis of patient data in the search for a vaccine during the worldwide pandemic. An incredible 30 years of public health records had been digitized, and the tech could aggregate safety data in clinical trials for combating COVID-19.

What are the two main pillars for building government trust?

In summary, the government’s goal of building public trust and gaining confidence in its services is a major hill to climb.

According to analysts Deloitte, two main pillars for building government trust are capability and reliability – and technology will play a major role.

When citizens are trying to perform crucial tasks like online registration for new services and programs or obtaining legal identification, the last thing they need is an additional obstacle. Now is the time for agencies to future-proof how they engage with their constituents.


Written by Bruce Orcutt, Senior Vice President at intelligent automation company ABBYY 


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