UK e-government slump continues

Since 2002, the UK has fallen from sixth to ninth position and is growing more slowly than other developed countries, according to the annual international study by management and IT consultancy Accenture.

The findings are another blow to the government’s attempts to get business to operate online. Recent failures include UK Online for Business, which only reached a half of its projected one million SMEs running online operations.

Government e-envoy Andrew Pinder is responsible for getting UK businesses online, but will step down in July when a replacement is appointed.

The Inland Revenue has also struggled to encourage electronic tax-return filing.

The UK’s focus on capability rather than take-up means there are a range of services available – but little use is made of them, said Accenture partner Marcus Robinson.

‘One of the positive things about the UK is that investment has clearly gone into infrastructure, but there is a big question about whether it has been worth it,’ he said.

‘The office of the e-envoy and successful broadband roll-out show that undoubtedly investment has gone in, but the question is “so what?” If there aren’t services for citizens to use, or if the services are there and citizens don’t want to use them, then arguably it’s been in vain.’

The report found a high demand for online services – four in 10 respondents said that electronic interaction would be their preferred route – but actual usage lags behind.

Three-quarters of UK citizens surveyed said they would use e-government more if it saved time and money.

But fewer than 10% normally conduct government transactions online and four in 10 have never visited a government website.

‘Online services have to be more convenient and attractive or they just won’t be used,’ said Robinson.

Five thousand internet users in 12 countries contributed to the research.

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