Multi-Channel Delivery

The objectives of this issue are as follows:

What is Multi-Channel Delivery?

Channels are different means used by service providers to interact with and deliver services to their user community. Multi-channel service delivery is the provision of services through different networks, terminal devices or platforms and interfaces, in an integrated and coordinated way, with comparable levels of usability.

Governments, like other sectors, also interact with citizens through different channels, from the traditional ones such as the counter or face-to-face and postal delivery to the electronic channels such as Internet web-sites, e-mail, SMS-messaging, fixed phone, mobile phone, interactive voice response systems, digital television, fax, self-service terminals (ATMs), etc. Governments also have challenges in relation to the elimination of barriers in the access to their services and in relation to the provision of choices about how to access their information and services.

Mobile devices, digital TV and others are opening new ways of interaction between citizens and governments, so that electronic services are no longer limited to the PC. This is possible thanks to the evolution of terminal devices with better features in terms of processing capacity, memory, power autonomy, screen size and quality, on one side and to the improvement of networks, protocols and mark-up languages on the other side.

Industry and citizens are getting used to these new electronic channels taking advantage of their possibilities and of new services and there is an expectation that governments may be able to do the same.

These new electronic channels require the adoption of new architectures and systems able to provide the maximum of their functionalities.

The Web is a main channel to access government services permanently available and it should be possible to offer the citizens such services through any device incorporating Internet access. This would allow a significant increase in the usage of government services by means of any kind of widespread channels such as PDA,s, smartphones, WAP, WebTV, or even Bluetooth and others; in this way the access to government services would really be anyhow, anywhere, anytime through mobile devices.

Governments should take into account distribution, access options and accessibility aspects to avoid creating new barriers which could limit the amount of information or services provided. Consideration to socially disadvantaged users, users without high bandwidth and high cost devices, as well as devices, platforms and websites with smaller audiences should be taken into account.

What Public Policy Outcomes are Related to Multi-Channel Delivery?

Multi-channel policies developed by governments generally address the following goals:

What are the Main Benefits of Multi-Channel Delivery?

Main benefits of multi-channel delivery may be both for the user community and for the service provider:

How Can Multi-Channel Delivery Be Achieved?

As a starting point governments develop strategies so that the access to their Web sites may be available through a range of digital platforms offering more choice to citizens. More global approaches design strategies which combine face to face offices, call centers and web sites, as in the case of the multichannel initiative consisting in a website (, a network of offices (more than 1.600 in March 2009), and a telephone number in Spain [Red060] and the Multi-channel Citizen Service Centers in Greece [EV-PAPA], with equivalent experiences to this one in other countries. Transport Direct [Transport] in the United Kingdom offers travel information beyond the PC platform including PDAs or mobile phones and digital TV which gets to a segment of the population who do not have ready access to the internet through a PC.

The study about “Multi-channel delivery of government services” elaborated by the Program IDA of the European Commission [EC-MCD] elaborates on how to develop a multi-channel strategy; this study includes a list of possible channels with their main features, proposes a channel selection framework and provides implementation guidelines of the multi-channel strategy. This implementation may require a number of steps such like the following:

What are the Main Issues and Limitations with Multi-Channel Delivery?

General requirements of the user and of the provider

Some of them are specially relevant like security providing trust, and simplicity so that the content may have a similar appearance from any device, providing transparency from the point of view of the user.

Many people uses the mobile phone only for phone calls and are not aware of the rest of possibilities of the device, because its operation may result difficult for them. This inhibiting factor decreases the usage of the offered services. For instance, trying to write an URL in a mobile may be a difficult task because certain characters (“@”, “/”, “?”, “&”, “:”, …) are hard to find and the writing task is generally troublesome. The user usually has to remember a crowd of short numbers, key words, URLs, while using impulsively a mobile device with low help capabilities and requiring a quick answer to solve an specific problem.

Limitation of mobile devices and adaptation of information and services provided

The ideal scenario is that introduction of new electronic channels would be as non-intrusive as possible; for instance without having to modify content managers used for the production of information for the Web.

This may require the deployment of intermediate elements which adapt or format the content taken out from the web appropriately according to the kind of device involved in the transaction.

Coordination and integration of different channels

Access to eGovernment services and information

In relation to the multi-channel access to eGovernment services and information there are several main issues to be considered:

This means that when deployment multi-channel delivery of services a certain knowledge of the environment is needed in terms of the availability of different devices and bandwidth, and of the target population, social preferences and user profiles including access by persons with disabilities.

Interesting information may be about the proportion between mobile phones to PCs or preferences of channel in relation to specific services. Depending on how simple or complex is the service, the user may prefer making a phone call, browsing with the mobile, receiving or exchanging information by e-mail or using a website with a computer.

Governments use different strategies to get this kind of information; for instance, studying user profiles, user groups and heuristics of navigation.

For instance, Directgov [Directgov] in the United Kingdom is available through its website, through any Internet enabled phone and through digital TV; they have found that users of the Directgov TV service are more likely to be older (63% over 35, 40% over 45, 17% over 55 respectively), the majority not working (67%) and half (48%) rarely or never use the internet.

Other strategies include facilitating free Internet enabled computers at libraries and kiosks or ATMs, widely available to citizens for free at public locations; targeting the lower cost devices and the lower cost access; providing some information in text form for mobile access; announcing multi-media information and making it searchable through text based services so that users who have limited access to multimedia enabled workstations can find out about resources they need and go to a kiosk or library with access available.

The MC-eGov Study on Multi-channel Delivery Strategies and Sustainable Business Models for Public Services addressing Socially Disadvantaged Groups [MC-GOV] includes a good number of good practice examples.

Conditions about the reuse of government information

Standards, principles and best practices are needed to facilitate the provision of multi-channel services and to satisfy requirements such as efficiency, effectiveness, integration, quick response to policies, priorities and social needs and the delivery of services that offer a sustainable value to society.

Fair distribution refers to the issue if government distributed content through selected websites, platforms or devices creates an unfair advantage for a particular device, platform, distribution network, or website.

It may be interesting for governments and for the users of their services and information to consider, for instance widely used instruments such as Web 2.0 services, as an additional channel for distribution of multimedia information. Also they could consider the use of social networks as a mean to increase interaction and citizen´s participation taking due care of privacy, reliability and accessibility barriers they may present.

In relation to these questions, governments are considering and putting in practice the idea of being present in main Web 2.0 services and similar instruments and thus reaching large communities, instead of just remaining outside and waiting for users to come to their traditional websites. An example is the use made by town council of the city of Zaragoza of some of this kind of services [ZARAGOZA].

Strategies in relation to the distribution of multi-media government content may include approaches to facilitate the access to content provided through social media channels, in a searchable way, in freely accessible, playable and downloadable formats, allowing tagging or preserving hyperlinks.







European Commission – Program IDA, Multi-channel delivery of government services, June 2004,


European Commission, 'MC-eGov: Study on Multi-channel Delivery Strategies and Sustainable Business Models for Public Services Addressing Socially Disadvantaged Groups',


Evangelos Papanikolaou (Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration & Decentralization) Multi-channel Citizen Service Centers in Greece,


GSA Office of Citizen Services and Communications, Intergovernmental Solutions Newsletter, Transparency and Open Government, Transparency in Government,


MC-eGov Study on Multi-channel Delivery Strategies and Sustainable Business Models for Public Services addressing Socially Disadvantaged Groups


Ministerial Declaration, approved unanimously in Lisbon, Portugal, on 19 September 2007,


Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Transparency and Open Government, B. Obama,


Red 060 (Network 060),


Transport Direct


Device Independence Principles


Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0,


Web Accessibility Inituative


Wikipedia, Mobile Web, Limitations,


Wikipedia, Digital Divide