Jury is still out on e-government

The way long-term public IT projects are deployed by government departments such as the Inland Revenue and the NHS should fundamentally change, and not simply focus on public online services, according to a major new survey by Accenture.

The consulting giant found that in response to pressures to deliver greater public-sector value, better policy outcomes and more targeted and effective citizen services, the ‘time had come’ for a ‘major reinvention of government service delivery’.

While it said that e-government was ‘well advanced’ in terms of the number of online services, there was a long way to go before widespread public adoption. Instead it should be part of a ‘much broader service-delivery agenda’ to achieve its full potential.

Despite investing billions in external management and IT consultants to move services such as taxation online, the UK public was found to prefer the telephone to the internet, with only 17% receiving regular online contact over the past year.

The Revenue’s online-filing system and the NHS National Programme for IT have been the government’s flagship public-facing technology projects over the past few years.

Marty Cole, group chief executive of Accenture’s government operating group, said: ‘Governments cannot afford to invest all their effort and resources in developing the online channel alone to keep pace with citizens demands.’

He said that the entire government organisation must become focused on delivering services to citizens in ways that are ‘tailored to their needs and circumstances’ and should make use of different ‘channels of interaction’.

For the first time the Accenture study went beyond measuring the extent to which governments offer services online, and investigated their success in delivering ‘true customer service’ – the value they bring to their citizens through multiple channels.

The firm’s sixth study found countries such as Canada, the US and Denmark had made greater progress in the ways government interacted with citizens, businesses and each other.

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