Headlines: July 14th, 1999

Public bodies need help in meeting challenges in developing on line government. This is the advice of a Government and Industry Round Table Seminar on E-commerce.

Financial organisations and structures are seen as major obstacles. Finance departments often fail to understand what is involved and are less than sympathetic. Electronic delivery can reduce costs by nine tenths, but when a parallel traditional service has to be maintained the result is an increased cost. Budget structures do not match new services and there is a need to move from an organisation based budget to one for the process.

Another major difficulty is co-ordinating local and central government services and delivering them in a form that suits the customer. There needs to be a study of the best channels for particular services in terms of locations such as libraries and post offices. A possible way forward that should be explored is greater use of the website www.upmystreet.com By inserting a postcode site visitors can get information about schools, crime clear-up rates and ambulance response times.

A report summarising the findings of this, and other seminars on e-commerce, will be presented to the Prime Minister by the end of July.