Global e-government

Accenture have published their new survey on the status of e-government in various countries, which Kablenet have kindly picked up. We haven’t done as well as I would have liked in the UK, but I can see why we might improve our score by only 16% whereas other countries have moved faster. I think I’ve said before that our vision is on the money, but that we haven’t yet managed to execute all the pieces. There are some interesting conclusions in Kable’s story (I don’t have the final report yet, doubtless that will arrive soon):

– Initially, e-government costs money. That’s certainly been true where I’ve looked. There is quite a significant hump of investment money needed to put in place the infrastructure to allow information and transactions to be presented. Worse, that money is typically spent department by department in many countries, making it hard to manage the costs and maximise the chance for return. Unless high numbers of people use the service and then stop calling customer service centres, don’t write letters and start sending in accurate forms through the online channel, then costs (net) go up. Ages ago at dinner with Michael Dell he talked me through what happened for his company. In 1997 they went on the web, thinking that people would buy online, costs would go down and margins would improve (or sales prices could be lowered ahead of coming competition). What actually happened was that people used the web to look initial data up and then phoned in with more complicated questions. Sales per employee went up, total sales went up, but so did the number of call centre operators needed. It wasn’t until the website was updated, incrementally, to address all the usual questions and more that people moved their buying to the web. I still remember the glee when Dell was selling $1 million a day of PCs online. That number must be somewhere between $50 million and $100 million now.

– It’s hard to move from “service online” to “service used”. True enough and I think many of us would echo that. If the service is hard to find, or doesn’t improve on the paper process, or doesn’t add additional value that can’t be found offline, then usage is bound to be low. Interestingly, my own (very anecdotal data) says that, for the most part, people are not even trying to find services online in many cases. That for me, means we’ve failed the neighbour test, i.e. until the service is so good that your neighbour will lean over and tell you what they found using a government website, high usage will remain elusive. That’s effectively the FriendsReunited effect. Last time that happened, it was the 1901 Census data published by PRO.

The report, which I’ve just found on the website, goes on to list five core conclusions:

– eGovernment matures through a series of plateaus. Each successive plateau acts as both a barrier to and foundation for progress to the next. (My note: nothing new here, this has been common wisdom for a few years … the trick is how to break through each barrier)

– Value drives eGovernment visions. There is a growing demand for projects to deliver Return on Investment. (My note: yes, and (to quote Jim Johnson) it’s also about “return on requirement”. You only get a return when you deliver and people use, so how do you deliver the minimum functionality with the maximum yield and then incrementall release more?)

– CRM underpins eGovernment. Improved service delivery is the key strategic imperative for leading countries and executives. (My note: maybe, but CRM has so many connotations and is not a simple thing to describe, implement or use. Just like you “don’t buy content management”, you certainly can’t buy CRM.)

– Increasing take-up is a priority. Driving up usage is one of the key challenges for mature eGovernments. (My note: Absolutely).

– New eGovernment targets are needed. There is a recognition that broad-brush availability targets have not matched objectives. (My note: been there before, the target is not the issue, it’s execution against the target. Enough services available that are well designed will drive usage. One service alone, even with high take-up, does not make a government “e”)

Canada scores highest. That’s been true for a while and it seems that they’re stretching the lead now, moving into service transformation. That’s impressive. Kable note that the developments are led by a strong-minded CIO with a clear central focus. Certainly when I’ve spken to folks in Canada, it’s been clear that the aim has been to bring things to the middle, be consistent around design, force standards on departments to develop things in a citizen centric fashion and so on. Looks like it’s worked.

Leave a Reply