Provoking (e)government

With his new found freedom, Jerry Fishenden seems to be getting out his harshly provocative pen more often. Actually, that’s not fair or right – Jerry has always put across his points fully, fairly and rationally and these posts are no different- maybe I’m just reading more into the NFF (new found freedom) more than I should.

His latest post contains some points that should make anyone in government, let alone e-government, sit up and pay attention:

For example, just 340,000 out of 145 million DWP customer contacts took place online in 2008. Despite up to 21bn GBP being expended annually on UK public sector ICT at present, little headway seems to have been made. Indeed, in many cases it seems that digital fulfilment channels have become another overhead alongside all the existing channels.

If Jerry’s numbers are right (and I have no better ones although I fear that denominator in this instance could well be more than 145m), then that’s a slim 0.2% online takeup. In a world where the mission was “2005 / 100% online” then the takeup ball is plainly in pieces on the floor having been well and truly dropped.

It gets worse perhaps:

The United Nations e-Government Readiness Index shows that between 2005 and 2008 the UK slipped from 4th to 10th place. And this slide came during a time of unprecedented levels of ICT and public sector investment, with the UK possibly spending more as a percentage of GDP than any other country [see John Suffolk’s recent blog post for other views on that]. Using a slightly different methodology, the Economist Intelligence Unit e-Readiness Ranking for 2009 paints an even blacker picture, with the UK resting at just 13th in their particular table.

So far, just the facts … then the provocation

I’m not convinced that classifying, for example, HMRC’s self-assessment services as an e-government or online transaction is correct, given how much of it actually results in large amounts of paper and non-internet based communication. The much-praised DVLA tax disc service is similarly a fairly trivial interaction which could also be entirely digital


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