Headlines: April 4th, 2002

There’s a new warning today (April 4, 2002) that the drive to deliver services online could still result in a large scale waste of public money.The National Audit Office warns that if the public see no benefit in accessing services electronically, take up may be low. This would mean that despite a substantial investment of public money the potential savings offered by electronic delivery of services might not be realised.

‘Better Public Services through e-government’ examines the progress of national departments in implementing e-government and outlines the risks that need to be managed to achieve e-government.

Government has set the target that 100 per cent of services should be available on line by December 2005. But the NAO report shows that of the 524 services provided by departments, more than half have an online presence but most do nothing more than supply information.

To counter potential low take-up, the report advocates incentives to people who use the electronic option – such as sharing with them some of the savings made, or providing faster service delivery.

It is also pointed out that such incentives risk further excluding low income groups who may not be able to access these benefits without specific measures such as one stop shops.

The report also recommends that the Office of the E Envoy should work with departments to accelerate the dissemination and adoption of good practice on how to encourage citizens to take up services available on-line.

Hard copies of the report can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474. Electronic copies are at www.nao.gov.uk .