With most UK local authorities submitting strategies last week on how they plan to meet the target, concern is growing that £350m of taxpayer’s money will be wasted over the next two years as councils strive to meet an unnecessarily restrictive deadline. Local authority technology body the Society of IT Managers (Socitm) suggested 2009 as a more realistic target.
‘To have 2005 as a specific do or die target is asking too much, given the level of funding and the fact that many of the standards and technologies are not available,’ said Ernest Wardle, information age e-government programme manager at Socitm.
Almost two thirds of IT industry executives do not think the target can be met, according to a survey by industry body the Computer Software and Services Association (CSSA).
‘The provision of a quality service is what’s important in government, and that’s not going to happen if projects are rushed or authorities feel under pressure to deliver to a specific target,’ explained CSSA e-government programme manager Nick Kalisperas.
Philip Virgo, secretary general of parliamentary lobby group Eurim, agreed that the deadline needs to be reassessed. ‘The targets were probably a good idea to focus attention a couple of years ago, but they now need refining,’ he said.
vnunet.com’s sister publication Computing spoke to a number of council IT managers who expressed fears that the deadline will force them to put services online for the sake of it.
‘Most IT managers have been bashing their heads against brick walls to get their authorities to think more widely about e-government, rather than just meeting the Government’s targets,’ said Chris Walker, IT manager at Northumberland County Council.
However, the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions is adamant that the deadline is realistic and must be met.
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