Headstart: e-business – Delays hit UK online target.

The UK’s e-envoy has insisted that the government must ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to implementing e-government. Speaking at the GC2001 conference last week, Andrew Pinder re-emphasised the government’s commitment to bringing 100% of its transactions with citizens onto the internet in just three-and-half years’ time, writes Paul Allen and Accountancy Age staff.

‘Getting the very best out of new technology means that we must innovate – not just automate. And that means innovation within government as well as between government and the citizen,’ said Pinder.

‘Services should be packaged in a tailored, customer-focused fashion, often in partnership with the private sector, so that the citizen or business person is offered real benefits by transacting online, and as a consequence comes back to use more and more online services,’ he added.

Pinder’s statement comes as it was revealed that fewer than half of UK councils will meet government targets to put their services online by 2005.

According to a report by local authority IT user group Socitm, electronic service delivery across all councils won’t happen until 2009. The target for full online government is 2005.

Incoming Socitm president Robin Carsberg has said delays will occur because ‘there are more challenges than you can shake a stick at’.

Pinder has already sought to push forward the e-government agenda. Back in March he turned Microsoft partner and salesman, helping Bill Gates pitch the XML-based software used to run the government gateway to the governments of other nations.

The e-envoy spoke alongside Gates at a Seattle presentation to hundreds of government officials from around the world, saying that the troubled project, launched for pre-registrations at the end of January and fully operational next month, was ‘the most significant step yet towards meeting the target set by the prime minister getting all government departments online by 2005’.

In an exclusive interview with Accountancy Age in February, Pinder said he wanted accountancy to take a central role in developing financial security within the UK’s burgeoning e-commerce market.

He said that he wanted the profession to oversee the increasing use of digital certificates. These are used to provide security on internet transactions.

Based on a range of encryption techniques, they allow businesses to electronically certify features such as identity, ability to pay, or the authenticity of an electronic document.

With the UK’s e-commerce market is predicted to grow to £14.5bn by 2003 – it stood at just £2bn in 1999 – certificates will become an essential part of doing business across the internet.

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