Pandemic technology boosts trust in government

Despite handing over unprecedented amounts of personal data during the pandemic – or perhaps because of it – Australians trust their governments more than a year ago.

The Trust Imperative 2 report found “using pandemic technologies has boosted public trust in government, with customers prepared to consent to their personal data being used as a trade-off for more personalised services”.

The report surveyed 3000 people in Australia and New Zealand, with 89 per cent of citizens and businesses in Australia and New Zealand saying they used at least one COVID-19 digital government service during the pandemic. Types of data handed over included telehealth, contact tracing, venue check-ins, welfare payments and vaccine distribution. says the report proves “trust in the government can change almost instantly based on a customer’s interaction with a government’s digital services”.

“Aspects of the experience such as the ease of use, accessibility of information, smoothness of service and transparency in the use of data by the government can all have a direct impact on trust.”

Poor customer experience decreased trust and positive customer experience increased trust.

According to the analysis, customers in Australia and New Zealand expect their interactions with government to match that of “the best private companies”.

“High expectations are understandable given the number of transactions with government that relate to significant life events, such as employment, education, and health, and involve sensitive information. For this reason, approximately 50 per cent of customers agree that the standard of government services needs to be higher than the private sector,” states the report.

Improvement to government services is expected in exchange for personal data, which includes a simplified user experience, faster completion times, reduced service fees and more personalisation.

The Lowy Institute’s Natasha Kassam told the ABC that the vast majority of Australians felt that governments had handled the pandemic competently, which had restored flagging levels of trust in public institutions.

“Australian support for democracy has gone up in the past year, trust in Australian government has gone up in the past year, and Australians have been very willing to sacrifice personal freedoms in the name of this public health threat,” she said.

A poll of more than 2200 Australians commissioned by the Lowy Institute found that 65 per cent of those believed Australia had done very well tackling the pandemic, up from 43 per cent last year. A further 30 per cent said Australia had simply done fairly well.

Read more: Who can access your data

The Guardian reports that trust in government has been hindered by the Morrison government’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment.

Professor Kate Reynolds from ANU said women’s confidence in government and willingness to be vaccinated both fell in 2020.

ANU researchers surveyed the same 3030 people three times throughout 2020. They discovered the proportion of participants unwilling to get the vaccine as soon as it was available increased from 15 per cent to 19 per cent from June/July to September/October.

Those who said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible declined from 67 per cent to 61 per cent.

Older Australians were the most willing to get the vaccine and the least likely to believe there were associated health risks.

“Confidence in the federal government reassures the population as to the risks of vaccines,” it concluded.

About 30 per cent of young women aged 18-24 reported confidence in the federal government compared to 47 per cent for the rest of the population.

“It shows us trust in the government and social cohesion are important,” Prof. Reynolds said. “For example, if young women have been put off the government because of the handling of sexual harassment and political culture, then they could well turn off engaging about vaccination.”

Read more: Vaccine fast-tracked for over 50s

An online survey of 368 disability support workers from across Australia, conducted from 5 March to 8 April this year, found that only half would get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it was offered to them.

It revealed that more than half of the “delayed vaccinators” and “refusers” didn’t trust the government to make sure the vaccine was safe and effective.

The survey’s lead author, Professor Anne Kavanagh from the University of Melbourne, said that “government isn’t the trusted source of information for this group”.

“They did tend to trust their own doctors and chief medical officers, but not the politicians so much.”

She said the disability sector felt it had been left behind after the government prioritised aged care facilities over disability residential settings in the vaccine rollout.

“They don’t trust the government because they kind of felt let down the last time,” she said.

Read more: Voters divided over Morrison government’s performance

How much do you trust the government?

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Written by Will Brodie

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