The number of citizens worldwide using the Internet to access government services or products during the past 12 months increased 15 per cent, according to the second Government Online Study published by the London-based market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres.

Globally, 30 per cent said they had accessed government services online, compared with 26 per cent a year ago.

Countries showing the highest increases include: Australia, which saw figures rise from 31 per cent to 46 per cent; Turkey, which had a 10 per cent rise to 13 per cent; the Netherlands, which was up from 31 per cent to 41 per cent; and the US which rose from 24 per cent to 43 per cent.

Countries with the lowest level of usage were Japan and the UK, each with 13 per cent of the population.

.gov Countries showing the highest levels of e-government usage are Sweden, Norway, Singapore and Denmark, according to the study.

Perceptions of safety about disclosing personal information online – such as credit cards and account numbers – improved globally during 2002, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres. Some 23 per cent of people worldwide said they feel safe about providing this information over the Internet.

However, when it comes to the safety of government online services, perceptions differ widely around the globe. One third of citizens in the Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden – and in Singapore and Hong Kong perceive government Web services to be safe.

In contrast, 90 per cent of Japanese citizens, 82 per cent of German citizens and 76 per cent of French citizens view government online services as unsafe.