Headlines: March 11th, 1998

Information technology that will be used by government in the future has gone on display in Manchester as part of a European conference on Better Government. It gives a glimpse of how the next century might look with people dealing with government from their own homes, their offices and in public places.Digital TV will give access to government services and instead of going to a Natwest Bank to use the experimental system to advise departments about a new business start up, it will be possible to do it from home. Touch screen kiosks on display are being used in trials around the country. It is planned to install them in shopping centres, libraries and post offices giving people the opportunity to renew passports and driving licences and deal directly with officials in remote offices about a whole range of issues.

The Internet is being used extensively to make it easier to get information about public services. Many central and local government bodies have sites designed to help people with the complexities of their functions. The site Direct Access Government is a good place to start finding out who does what, the information needed and the forms that have to be filled in.

Although the use of technology in these different ways will give easier access to government, save time for people and the business community and lead to improvements in efficiency in government offices, perhaps the greatest significance will be in the opportunities opened up to change the whole concept of government business. The White Paper on Better Government due May will give pointers to the extent of changes likely in the short term.