UK leaps ahead in EU online stakes

The surge in public sector deals across the consultancy industry has delivered positive results, making the UK among the best in Europe at providing public services online.

According to a European Commission online public service ‘sophistication’ survey carried out by Capgemini, the UK was ranked third out of 28 member states, after Sweden and Austria. A year earlier it was eighth.

The fifth annual e-government benchmarking survey covered 14,000 public bodies in Europe in the last quarter of 2004, and examined areas from online access and income and corporate tax to car registration, benefits and customs declarations.

The survey ranked Sweden and Austria as having the most sophisticated online provision – the extent to which a service is provided, from downloading information to filling in forms electronically.

The report found that in most countries ‘income-generating’ services, such as paying taxes, were the best developed. On an EU-wide basis it discovered that online income tax declarations saved seven million hours, and that if generally available and widely used in all member states, the savings could rise to more than 100 million hours each year.

Online VAT declarations were found to save about 10 euros per declaration, while this could lead to savings of around euro 500m for businesses across the EU each year if maximum take-up was achieved.

Some 77% of users also said that they would recommend the online services already used by them to others. Not surprisingly, businesses said they wanted services that were easier to find and saved them money.

The UK Iceland, Germany, Italy and Belgium were singled out as making ‘important progress’, while the new EU accession countries were about two years behind the others, but still had ‘very satisfactory’ online provision, the report discovered.

‘This study points to impressive progress in developing and delivering public services on line across the EU,’ said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media. ‘The service delivery gap between new member states and the pre-enlargement EU 15 is lower than many expected and could close very quickly.’

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