The Public Accounts Committee’s report into improving public services through e-government is sceptical of what the £10bn-worth of projects will achieve unless changes are made.
Government departments currently have 100 major IT projects underway worth a total of £10bn. But although IT offers the potential to improve government services, to date few benefits have been realised.
Speaking at the publications of the Committee’s 54th Report, its chairman, Edward Leigh MP, warned that government departments need to do more to encourage the use of online services by citizens and increase the range of transactions available to the public.
‘Most government services currently available online just provide basic information and advice,’ he said. ‘More rapid progress now needs to be made to enable people to carry out transactions with government such as applying for adriving licence or claiming benefits. But there is also a need for better marketing strategies to encourage people to actually use what is available on-line.’
Leigh added: ‘Very few of the services which most citizens routinely use can be fully accessed online. Departments need to concentrate their efforts on identifying and making fully available online those services which citizens are most likely to find useful,’ the report said. ‘The public are unlikely to want to use the services which departments provide electronically unless they see real benefit from doing so.’
The Lord Chancellor’s Department is piloting a programme to allow solicitors to issue and serve petitions for less serious cases via email. Initial results have suggested that the average time taken to provide judgement on a civil case can be reduced from 21 to five days.
But to date, proven benefits of that nature are few and far between. The report says that to achieve improvements Government departments need to look beyond e-enabling existing ways of delivering services and instead consider how IT can be used to enhance and improve services.
The PAC also warns that although departments often justify their significant investment in IT projects by the potential to improve their operational efficiency and free up resources, departments need to establish baselines against which they can measure whether their investments in new technology have paid off.
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