e None, government Won – Number 1 in an occasional series

If there ever were a battle for e-government, it’s over. Government won, e none ran the scoreline.

Accenture are out today with their annual survey of global government performance in the online stakes. Showing how wonderful the Internet can be, this would be the same Accenture who the Indian government are denouncing today for failing to implement an e-Tea auction. Or was it an ET-auction? Misery loves company, of course. “IBM and Accenture had been entrusted with the task of designing the software but it was a total disaster, Jairam Ramesh, union minister of state for commerce and industry, said.”

The UK is, probably, ranked 12th. Apparently “The report does not contain an updated ranking of the egovernment league because it is largely unchanged from last year, says the company. Last year the UK was ranked 12th“.

All is not lost though. Accenture, recognising that some business could come their way, observe that with the “Transformational Government Strategy”, the UK is potentially on the verge of significant and dramatic change.

Around 38% people used an e-government service last year, about the same as the previous year. That’s not a terrible number – but it is surprising that the number hasn’t budged in a year. That would, honestly, make me think that last year’s figure was over-stated. Usage of direct.gov has doubled over the last year – if that has only taken traffic from existing sites rather than stimulating new traffic then the advertising has been a waste. Of course, we’re not measuring “satisfied” users here – maybe we had 38% last year who didn’t find what they wanted?

When we started all this, the plan (vague as it was) was to create an enveloping set of services that would hide the chaos and confusion of the real world of government and create some innovative, joined up services that would aid the citizen. This, in turn, would buy time for the real infrastructural issues to be confronted – the lack of common standards around identifiers, legislation on data sharing, retirement of inflexible legacy systems and, of course, civil service obstinacy and resistance to change.

Today, despite the best efforts of many, we’re left with a world of fragmented services that still require the citizen to figure out how to get around. Direct.gov, whilst making great strides, is only painting those services orange. I’m a fan of dg (as has been clear from many posts here), but they’re definitely up against it.

Here’s just one example that shows, I believe, why e is still losing to government. I appreciate that a single anecdote does not consitute data, but that’s why this is “number 1 in an occasional series”.

Direct.gov is majoring at the moment on local council services. I’ve always been a bit of a fan of the “report an abandoned car” service, thinking it’s a perfect service to join up. Trying to do that on direct.gov gives the following experience:

Home page
Connect to your council (one click)
Abandoned vehicles (one click and a new window)
Enter postcode (one click)
Report an abandoned vehicle (huh? just said I wanted that) (one click)
Customer portal login (what? ah, the small print says I can ignore that) (one click)
Smarter Borough Reporting Facility 36608 (what?)

Now they want my name, address, email address and, worse, the index at the bottom tells me that this is “page 1 of up to 9”. Apparently, this is all provided by a company called “NonStopGov”. Well, get this, you just stopped me in my tracks. So much for first.gov’s famous “3 clicks to service” objective.

This being Hammersmith and Fulham, they still don’t recognise my post code (council tax being paid nothwithstanding). As always, I use a spoof address and am given a UPRN (I have no idea what that is), it’s 00003408295 – is that a national ID for the fictitious property I use when I need to prove to LBHF that I live here?

I’m now on “Page 2 of up to 4” – productivity is going up, they’ve figured out that I don’t need 5 pages. But they’re now wondering if I’m reporting an abandoned car at my address or another. I don’t want to go through this again – what it it’s half way down the street that I actually live in – the one that they say doesn’t exist?

So I’m going to give up.

Five years ago, when I talked about reporting an abandoned car, I figured that all it would take would be a text message from wherever I was standing looking at such an abandoned car. If the council were worried that I was reporting my neighbour’s car as abandoned just to get back at them, they could wait for 2 (or 3, or 4) texts to come through before taking action (check my posts on 777 – buried in a piece in a piece about ID cards, no idea why, from 2003); or they could just swing by next time someone was in the area and see if there was an old banger on the road. Golly – they’d have my mobile number – they could even call me to check if I was seriously; I doubt many people steal mobile phones and then report abandoned cars so there’d be a good chance if I was giving them my mobile that I was genuine.

Why would they need to know my address? Why would they care about my name? Why would I need to log in? Why would it matter which council I was reporting the car to? Surely a car abandoned is a car abandoned? I just want to report it. Please don’t tell me if they know my details it lets them follow up by snail mail? Or, god forbid, market new services to me?

And if you think this should be easy, go and try and report a pot hole.

Maybe this is just my borough and every other one has it just right? Views at the bottom please. Try it in your area. I just checked a few – a couple don’t let you do it online and a couple need you to provide your entire CV before they’ll let you report.

5 thoughts on “e None, government Won – Number 1 in an occasional series

  1. If you click the Water Conservation banner on directgov you get the option of reporting abandoned cars at the bottom of a list of things to do to save the SE from the drought – mmmm an obvious link that!My council would like me to fill in a form available as a PDF and send it by post or ring em up; but only after first getting the police on the case.

  2. Derby CC let you report using an online form that doesn\’t ask for too much information (though mandates the provision of more than is really needed). However, the instructions suggest that it\’s a downloadable form that you have to post or fax to them – confusing. There\’s also a helpful picture of what an abandoned car looks like … just in case you didn\’t already know. Searching for \’abandoned car\’ on the site brings the service up as the 11th most relevant match rather than the top one (car parking and parking services appear to be better matches than abandoned vehicle for some reason).

  3. disappointed to see so many PDFs hanging around. But maybe that beats a nonstopgov solution in takeup terms? Does everyone quit when they see a PDF or when they see a complicated form?p.s. not trying to stand anywhere near sainsbury\’s … i\’m an ocado man

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