Headlines: November 17th, 2003

Local councils in England are adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude to e-Government according to the latest picture of how billions of pounds of government investment in technology are being put to use.The findings are published today by the public sector research specialists ‘eGov monitor’ and are based on early analysis of detailed e-Government progress reports submitted by every English local authority last Monday. ‘eGov monitor’ says the study presents new insights and concrete evidence of the issues faced by local government IT managers.

It says before committing to the ‘building-block’ technologies of e-Government, many council IT heads are putting off e-Government investment decisions until they know the outcome of the various central government-driven pathfinder projects which are currently underway and which could offer cheaper and more customised solutions.

A number of council IT departments, it says, are currently either indifferent, sceptical or simply have no demand at this stage for many of the technologies which have been aggressively marketed to them, by both government and industry. These include interactive digital television services, smartcard systems, e-democracy tools and Whitehall’s own flagship e-Government project, the Government Gateway.

These initial findings are based on a sample of a hundred “Implementing Electronic Government (IEG3)” statements, more than a quarter of all returns from English local authorities, submitted to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Detailed analysis covering all IEG3 Statements will be published in a forthcoming report by ‘eGov monitor’.

So far, it says, this year’s IEG3 statements show councils moving towards the Whitehall target of e-enabling all services by 2005, but with wide variations in individual performance. Progress with interactive digital television services in local government appears to be slow. And on e-Democracy the monitor reports that despite great interest among councils there has been arguably little headway made with e-democracy tools. One city council even admits it “has no plans to develop e-democracy at this stage”.

Many councils have still not fully bought into central government visions, the report finds and analysis shows many authorities have reservations over the use of the Office of the e-Envoy’s Government Gateway, which is designed to enable citizens and businesses to interact securely with government online. One statement notes that “at present the authority has no plans to utilise the Gateway” and a borough council warns that the “lack of local government services on the ‘gateway’ is a concern”.

Similarly councils report that they have yet to move beyond the embryonic stage of any plans to engage e-Government intermediaries, and there is a mixed response towards smartcard technology.

‘eGov monitor’s’ analysis has identified more than 100 strategic partnerships formed by councils to help deliver e-Government, showing the strength of commitment within local government to share learning, experiences and ensure the success of the e-Government programme. It finds, too, that Customer Relationship Management is emerging as a prime area of joint-working across councils.

Finally, on e-Procurement it says this could prove to be another fertile area for joint-working with a number of e-procurement partnerships already formed.

The full report – “Local eGovernment Opportunities: IEG3 Analysis” – providing detailed analysis of all IEG3 statements, including spending figures, will be published shortly by ‘eGov monitor’.