‘Miracle’ needed to meet e-gov online targets

Link: PAC says e-gov takeup is stalling

Civil servants are relying on a miracle to help them get all government services online by the end of 2005, according to a director of the eEnvoy’s office.

Dr Steve Marsh, director of security at the Office of the eEnvoy warned: ‘Government departments are planning a miracle for the fourth quarter of 2005 – the implementation graph has a very interesting shape towards the end.’

This ‘miracle’ has already had a little assistance in arriving – thegovernment deadline has already shifted from March 2005 to the end of that year.

If the 2005 deadline can’t be met, Marsh said, ‘We would prefer importantservices to be online with high take-up, rather than everything online and noone using it.’

Speaking at a conference organised by the London Internet exchange, Linx, Marsh said the three main risks for the government’s plans were: ‘That itwasn’t going to deliver them at all; that they’d be delivered and nobodywill use them; or that they’d deliver the services and find them tooexpensive to sustain.’

Marsh acknowledged the first risk was a real threat because most governmentdepartments hadn’t yet tackled the difficult elements of deliveringe-services.

Although 70% of government services are already online, and there are more than 1,800 websites existing in the domain, most of these just provide information.

‘So far we’ve taken low hanging fruit, in some cases so low you can trip over it,’ he said. ‘As we get into transactions and the way services impact people it gets harder.’

Take-up by the public is also a serious problem, he said: ‘It looks like the use of online government services is going down, as online buying goes up,’ saidMarsh.

Trust is also a serious problem according to Marsh: ‘UK consumers trust thegovernment less than anyone other than a foreign company. People don’t trustthe internet and they trust the government even less.’

He was concerned that those who most needed access to government services, likepeople with health problems and those on benefit, are those with leastaccess to the internet.

Marsh acknowledged that the relative lack of take up of public keyinfrastructure (PKI) technologies and digital signatures, was also a problem:’It just hasn’t grown in the way that four to five years ago, we thought itwould,” he said. But he said he still thought PKI would have a role to play.’

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