More than one in 10 UK citizens used Government digital services for first time during lockdown, research shows

Lockdown encourages widespread digital adoption, as the NHS augments its customer experience

The first UK lockdown sparked considerable new interest and uptake in digital apps and services supplied by the Government, according to research conducted by SAS, the leader in analytics.

More than one in 10 (12%) of the UK population made their first time use of government digital services and mobile apps as a result of the pandemic. Of these new digital adopters, 59% said they would continue to use government digital services permanently after the lockdown had ended.

However, the public sector still faces a digital adoption challenge. Almost half (47%) of citizens have still never used a government app or service.

The reluctance to embrace digital channels in the public sector may be down to the quality of the citizen experience on offer. Prior to lockdown, 42% of users considered their public sector experience to be positive, though 18% rated it as either unsatisfactory or highly unsatisfactory. Nearly one in three (29%) of citizens reported an improvement in their public sector experience during lockdown, but this was almost balanced by the 22% who felt their experience had deteriorated during that period. Half (49%) noticed no difference.

However, this strongly contrasted with substantial consumer experience improvements recorded from healthcare providers, primarily the NHS. Nearly half (47%) reported their healthcare web-experience had improved during lockdown. Healthcare also saw 13% of UK citizens use digital services and apps for the first time following lockdown, with the majority (54%) saying they would continue using these services permanently once the lockdown had ended.

Simon Dennis, Director, Future Government and AI Evangelist, SAS UK, said:

“Faced with unprecedented pressures and challenges, the quality of the citizen experience in public sector held up strongly during lockdown. In the NHS and across healthcare, impressive gains were achieved as citizens turned to convenient apps and services for the first time.

“However, it’s clear that there’s still much work for the public sector to do. The influx of many new digital citizens presents an exciting opportunity for the Government to refocus efforts on the digital experience. The private sector has embraced the value that digital services provide where an omni-channel data-driven approach delivers ever-better customer anticipation and service. It’s now the turn of government to break down the legacy of departmental silos and focus on the needs of citizens and thus deliver joined-up, personalised and high-quality experiences.”

For more insight into how other industries across EMEA performed during lockdown, download the full report: Experience 2030: Has COVID-19 created a new kind of customer?  


Research was conducted and statistics compiled for SAS by 3Gem. Consumers completed an online questionnaire in August 2020 across a number of markets (UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Greece, Saudi Arabia and South Africa) adding up to a global sample of 10,000 adults over the age of 18. 

About SAS

SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW®.

SAS and all other SAS Institute Inc. product or service names are registered trademarks or trademarks of SAS Institute Inc. in the USA and other countries. ® indicates USA registration. Other brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies. Copyright © 2022 SAS Institute Inc. All rights reserved.

Editorial contacts:

Visit the SAS Press Center: