Research Output

Review of interactive digital television pilot: final report.

1. This report presents an evaluation of the Scottish iDTV (interactive Digital Television) pilot. The research reported here was commissioned by the Scottish Executive in May 2005, undertaken by Dr Colin Smith, Napier University and Dr William Webster, University of Stirling, and coordinated by the Project Advisory Group (PAG).
2. The Scottish iDTV pilot service, led by the Scottish Executive in collaboration with Dumfries and Galloway Council, NHS Scotland (Health Scotland) StartHere, West Lothian Council and Young Scot, provided electronic public services and information via digital television. The pilot was available on the Sky Digital platform and ran for six months after being officially launched on 7 September 2004. It was intended to test the feasibility of delivering public services through iDTV. More detailed information about the pilot is contained in chapter 4.
3. The overarching aim of the research reported here was to produce a study of the experiences and views of both service providers and IDTV users in order to assess the effectiveness of the Scottish iDTV pilot, and to identify lessons on the potential of iDTV as a medium for improving access to information and services. Further specific research objectives are listed in chapter 2.
4. The research methodology utilised in this study used multiple methods to capture data from project stakeholders, including: a review and analysis of project and policy documentation, a review and analysis of usage data, interviews with representatives of the main project partners, and interviews with service users. All research activities were completed between 7 June 2005 and 11 July 2005. Chapter 2 presents a full account of the research methodology.
5. Initially the intention was to conduct a number of focus groups with a representative sample of service users. However, the unavailability of sufficient numbers of service users led the research team, in agreement with the PAG, to undertake interviews with a small number of identified service users. Chapter 2 presents a full account of the mechanisms used to recruit service users as research participants.
6. Chapter 3 presents an overview of iDTV policy and practice in the UK, with specific reference to the use of iDTV for the provision of electronic public services. This chapter finds that although digital television is a relatively new technology, it has rapidly diffused across society, and therefore represents a unique opportunity to deliver electronic services directly into citizens and service users’ homes. The take up of digital television, the forthcoming digital switchover, the development of government policy and services in this area, and the emerging evidence base from a number of iDTV initiatives, points to iDTV being an important complimentary medium for the future delivery of electronic government and public services.
7. Chapter 3 also finds that the evidence base emerging around existing iDTV initiatives suggests that citizens and service users are interested in using iDTV to access egovernment services, in particular, when there is a clear reason, or purpose, for using iDTV, and where content is relevant and up to date. The emergent evidence base also suggests that the most popular iDTV content is local and community information and the ability to undertake certain transactions, particularly, making appointments, submitting applications, requesting information, making payments and voting.
8. Chapter 4 presents a description of the main features of the Scottish iDTV pilot, including both technological and managerial aspects. The main features of the pilot were: an iDTV service available via the Sky Digital platform, a range of informational and interactive content from each the main project partners, a service officially available for six months from 7 September 2004, and a partnership approach to project management.
9. Chapter 5 comments on the range and patters of use of the pilot in the period being evaluated and is based on ‘service reports’ provided by the PAG. It finds that although all sections of the pilot were viewed or used there was actually very limited use of the service. The lack of service use may be explained by a number of factors, including: difficulty in accessing the service, the slow speed of the service, the cost of accessing the service, the scope of content and the limited extent of service user recruitment. The lack of service use makes discerning reliable trends in use difficult, however, it is apparent that service use was highest in the late morning and early evening and that service use declined over time.
10. Chapter 6 presents an account of project partners’ experiences and perceptions of the project processes and outcomes. Data for this chapter derives from semi-structured interviews with nine project partner representatives. In general, the project partners found being involved with the pilot a rewarding and valuable experience, which provided significant learning about a relatively immature technology. Project partners agreed that the realisation of a ‘live’ iDTV service had been a considerable achievement, demonstrating the feasibility of delivering public services via iDTV. However, all agreed that this achievement was tempered by the lack of service use and the inability to integrate the service with their existing content management systems.
11. Chapter 7 presents service users’ experiences and perceptions of the iDTV pilot service. Data for this chapter derives from semi-structured interviews with two service users. In general, service users were already familiar with iDTV and found the service to be interesting, useful and easy to use. Respondents also reported that the service had a narrow scope, when compared to the Internet, but that it was potentially an important addition to the provision of electronic services.
12. Conclusions drawn from the research discussed in this report are presented in chapter 8 and include general conclusions about the role iDTV has to play in the delivery of public services and specific conclusions about the Scottish iDTV Pilot. In general, it is apparent that iDTV is likely to become an important complimentary platform for delivering electronic public services and that the evidence base suggests citizens and service users are interested in accessing information and making transactions over the iDTV platform. However, the provision of public services via iDTV is still in its infancy and is not yet sufficiently advanced to support widespread provision and use. More specifically, the main achievement of the Scottish Pilot was designing and delivering a ‘live’ iDTV service, at a time when relatively little was known about the technology and how it could be used for delivering public services. Consequently, the pilot involved extensive organisational and individual learning amongst the project partners. The full list of conclusions can be found in chapter 8.
13. Chapter 8 also presents a series of recommendations. Two key recommendations presented are, firstly, that the Scottish Executive develop a position on the future provision of public iDTV services in Scotland, and secondly, that the Scottish Executive captures, for future reference the key learning experiences and outcomes from the iDTV pilot. Furthermore, now the Scottish pilot has finished it is important that the Scottish Executive makes reasoned decisions about the immediate provision of iDTV services in Scotland. Possible options include, reinstating the pilot service, developing an enhanced service, developing a portal presence and rolling out the service to other service providers on a cost-recovery basis, establishing a presence on DigiTV, or withdrawing from the iDTV area altogether. A thorough review of these options should take place and should inform the development of iDTV provision in Scotland. The full list of recommendations can be found in chapter 8

  • Type:

    Technical Report

  • Date:

    30 November 2004

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Scottish Executive

  • Funders:

    Scottish Executive


Smith, C. F. & Webster, W. (2004). Review of interactive digital television pilot: final report.



Interactive television; digital broadcasting; electronic public service information provision; egovernment; local and community services; iDTV;

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