Communication with public authorities over the internet is becoming more and more popular. According to the German Association of Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (BITKOM) 32% of all Germans aged between 16 and 74 used online services provided by public authorities in the year 2006 such as downloading documents or filling in forms online. Back in 2002 only one sixth of Germans had used such services. Thus, these electronic services make life easier to the general public and at the same time help to save taxpayer´s money.
By European comparison, however, Germany is just above average (24%) in this respect. Leading are the Benelux countries and Scandinavia. Sweden and the Netherlands reached a online usage percentage of 52% and Finland 47% in 2006. All these countries had strongly extended their online services for citizens in recent years. According to BITKOM, in Germany too many publich authorities limit themselves to providing just downloads. Citizens had to print out, fill in and then send by post these documents, critizises BITKOM.
The police, however, is a good example in terms of online services for citizens. Be it bicicle theft or burglary – in 10 out of the 16 federal states it is now possible to report to the police online. Printouts are not necessary any more. A BITKOM survey revealed that only Bavaria, Bremen, Rhineland-Palatinate, the Saar, Saxony and Thuringia did not offer such services in the first half of 2007. Particularly successful in terms of public online services is North Rhine-Westphalia where since March 2004 more than 60.000 people have reported online to the police. This is on average 20.000 each year and should, in the opinion of BITKOM, serve as an example to others.