Headlines: April 4th, 2000

New survey information backs up the Government’s decision to push technology as the means of improving public services.Evidence from the fourth wave of People’s Panel research suggests that the public is so used to the convenience of telephone banking, communicating by email and contacting call centres at times to suit them – it expects such flexibility from the public as well as the private sector.

The research shows that people expect public services to have weekday access up to 8pm or 10pm, plus Saturday mornings.

It indicates that the five services which people most want to contact during extended opening hours are NHS hospitals (for non-emergencies), social services, doctor’s surgeries, the Passport Agency and local councils.

A high proportion of people would like to be able to contact services by phone, although they would prefer to contact some public services such as the passport and benefits agencies electronically.

E-government, the Government’s IT strategy heavily trailed last week, has now been more fully revealed.

As well as electronic service delivery targets moved forward to 2005, the other key aspects include the use of new technology to tackle social exclusion, such as making Government websites accessible to the blind and ensuring call centres employ staff who speak different languages in areas with large ethnic groups.

There are new policies for authentication, smart cards and security for online identification, allowing Government to do business with the public by electronic means.

There will be new facilities on the Government Secure Intranet, Government’s e-mail system. These include a directory, diary, electronic document management across government, a corporate news service, job adverts, database of Government statistics and other services.

All major departments will have initial e-business strategies by October.

E-government is available on the internet at www.iagchampions.gov.uk/Strategy.htm

Full details of the results of the fourth wave of the People’s Panel research is available on the People’s Panel website at www.servicefirst.gov.uk