PracticePeople In PracticeCouncils fall short in online services

Councils fall short in online services

Fewer than half of all UK councils will meet Government targets to put their services online by 2005, and Whitehall must intervene to get things back on track, say local authority IT managers.

Electronic service delivery across all councils won’t happen until 2009, says the report, Local eGovernment Now, published last week by local authority IT user group Socitm. The target for full online government is 2005.

The programme won’t be completed on time because ‘there are more challenges than you can shake a stick at’, said incoming Socitm president Robin Carsberg.

Business and household access to broadband communications is key to online government, but some remote areas of the UK are unlikely to attract broadband suppliers, a problem that only central government can solve, Carsberg explained.

‘The digital divide is a serious problem,’ he said. ‘The Government needs to give a clear lead and do something nationally about broadband infrastructure.’

‘Without the [broadband] infrastructure, a lot of the effect of web-enabling government services will be diluted because people will just pursue different routes,’ he added.

Lack of funding will also slow local authority web projects, Socitm members believe. ‘There is money coming from central government but I suspect it won’t be enough,’ said Carsberg. ‘In times of financial stringency and a possible economic downturn, finding the missing money will be less and less easy.’

Whitehall must tackle authentication issues so that council services involving confidential information can be sure of customer identity and ensure that information isn’t passed to the wrong people.

‘The Government hoped that commercial industry would solve the authentication problem by developing a technology that councils could buy, but this is clearly not the case,’ said Carsberg.

  • Also published in Computing

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