Should the 100% stay or go now?

Last month Kablenet conducted a quick online survey asking if the 2005/100% online target should stay. I had a few problems accessing the survey (which was carried out by SurveyMonkey) until I pretty much turned off my firewall and changed the way I use cookies. Anyway, apparently 80% of the respondents (it doesn’t say how many people actually answered) think that the target should be shelved. It goes on to say “if the 2005 target was dropped, providing customers with services that are trustworthy, easy to use, and meet their demands are ‘really important'”.

I voted to keep the targets in place. To ask for anything else is missing the point. I think I’ve said a few times before that Kennedy didn’t set a vague goal back in the 60s – get a man to the moon, by the end of the decade and bring him back alive. Clear, simple and to the point. And memorable. So … if the choice is 2005/100% online or “sometime in the next 5 years, put a few things online (whichever ones you think appropriate) and let’s see how it goes”, then it’s obvious which one I’ll go for.

It’s nearly 3 years since the PM announced the targets and, since then, I don’t think we’ve made enough progress towards the 100% figure – despite a lot of people working very hard. Why we haven’t made the progress is a topic for another day, perhaps when I’ve wrapped up this job. Anything less than a clear, unequivocal target opens you up to endless arguments … suggesting that the top 50% should be online just means that everyone jostles to be lower in the priority list.

All that said, the Kablenet survey does give some good and accurate conclusions – the order in which services go online should be based on offline usage, offline complexity, ease of use and so on. And that’s a point worth re-inforcing. No point putting a low usage, complex service online ahead of a high usage, simple service. Likewise, there’s no point in putting a service online if it is more effectively done on the telephone – but you don’t want to waste time arguing about these. There are world-class “arguers” in every bit of government in every country in the world. The less ammo they have, the quicker you can move on.

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