The potential benefits of e-Government will not be realized without a radical re-think is the key message from the Independent think tank The Work Foundation. In a report ‘SmartGov – Renewing Electronic Government for Improved Service Delivery’ it says that e-government has the potential not only to transform public services, but to fix the credibility gap between what people want and what they get from Government. This would then help to overcome the spiral of dissatisfaction and low voter turnout.e-Government is about creating a new form of political legitimacy, but theories about what it is for include saving money and eliminating benefit fraud. The report argues that it is about re-working government to better suit modern life. It offers a philosophy for re-invention of the state and a mechanism for renewal comparable to such significant realignments of public services as nationalization and privatization.
Currently there are mismatches. Poorer people make most use of public services, but they are the least likely to have access to online services. Low take-up of services generally contrast with the high investment costs. The level of spending is higher at the centre, but most services are delivered by local authorities. There are success stories, and the report quotes case studies about Liverpool City Council, the Office of Government Commerce and North Wales police. It also shows how the Government Gateway, a very successful development, has failed to deliver its potential because central departments have not changed.
The report urges that e-Government should be re-branded. It is about organizational change, not technology. It is also about joined-up government. A re-branding would give an opportunity to present it as part of a parcel to introduce public service reform. It could form some of the answer to Gordon Brown’s call for strategic decentralization of public services and a stronger localism in service delivery.