Book News: April 23rd, 2001

Daniel Stedman Jones with Ben CroweGovernments around the world are joining the race for electronic government with increasing determination. Information and communications technologies are seen as the route to better public services, more efficient administration and the satisfied citizen-consumer. This report investigates the progress of five nations – Australia, France, Canada, Sweden and the USA, and compares them with progress in the UK. It shows that while Britain is doing well in many respects, the greatest challenges are still to come.The authors show that e-government so far has focused on creating special initiatives which import private-sector business techniques into public service delivery, in an attempt to make government more efficient and services more responsive to their consumers. This will only succeed, they argue, if e-government is placed at the heart of wider efforts to modernise government structures. This means making new forms of citizenship and accountability a priority, and accelerating efforts to integrate and reshape the structures of government and policymaking.Without addressing these long-term challenges, e-government risks creating a virtual Whitehall, failing to produce real cost savings, and releasing new demand for services while simultaneously contributing to falling
confidence in public institutions. The danger is that e-government will simply automate existing services, without helping to transform the structures which determine their quality and effectiveness.The report concludes with a series of priorities for policy and implementation which would help move the UK into a new phase of e-government – a period in which the goal is genuine transformation, and a new set of relationships between citizens and the institutions which serve them.

Published by Demos. ISBN 1 84180 095 3. Price 7 pounds 95p.

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