And, sadly, this isn’t a good top ten to be in. November’s PC Pro magazine claims that the PM’s announcement in 1999 that “all government services will be online by 2005” was one of the worst IT predictions ever. Being a historian of this kind of thing, I know that in November 1999, the PM actually announced that things would all be online by the end of 2008 but that he revised that statement in March 2000, bringing it forward 3 years. I believe it may have had something to do with the French or the Canadians announcing an end of 2005 target.
The folks at PC Pro believe it sounded like “groundless bluster” then and now. Their primary source for this is the “Better Connected 2006” report where just 13% of local government sites are cited as being transactional (where that is defined as “adding more than one type of online interation”). They also note that even the Cabinet Office has reported that 97% of official sites are unusable by disabled people.
So, after £10 billion (their figure), apparently the government admits that only 12% of adults have visited a local authority website (as opposed to zero % children I wonder?).
Perhaps the PM should have stayed with the first prediction. He’d have a good chance of being right if (and ony if) there were now a consolidated and well-led effort to kill off poorly visited sites, aggregate citizen-focused content in key sites (and those stand out – the Revenue, DVLA, direct.gov, department of health etc), drive the online identity debate with the government gateway at the centre (not ID cards, but then I’m biased) and leverage off third party platforms and operations, e.g the citizen’s advice bureau, accountants and payroll providers, the post office etc.
No simple task but I’m absolutely sure there is more appetite for this now than there ever was before.