Headlines: May 28th, 1999

Public Service Minister Peter Kilfoyle has clarified the Government’s approach to using e-commerce in delivering public services.

He said that the Government would work with public, private and voluntary organisations that are expert in dealing with the public. The aim is to allow people to access public services in the course of their everyday lives in such places as a supermarket, library, council office, Post Office, bank or high street outlet. There would be no restriction on the type of service that could be accessed in such places and it would include submitting forms, making payments, speaking to advisers about jobs, education, health or benefits.

The principle of integrating public service transactions with commercial operations would be carried forward into the information age with, for example, a third party adviser using digital TV, home PC, kiosk, call centre or by video conferencing facilities. These new ways of accessing public services are called ‘Channels’. A current non-electronic example of a Channel used by the Passport Office is the passport application services offered through banks and the Post Office. For a small fee these organisations can help in completing application forms and sending them off.

David Romley in an article in Publicnet on 19 May predicted the Channels policy would result in massive job losses across the public sector and a bonanza for the companies developing e-commerce services. The Cabinet Office denied that there would be job losses, because staff would be re-deployed to improve services by, for example, providing extend opening of call centres. Companies will share with the public and voluntary sectors in bringing services closer to the public.