Headlines: December 7th, 2004

IT managers in local councils are upbeat about their ability to deliver e-Government services. A survey by their representative body, SOCITM, shows an optimistic attitude to improving citizen access to services and also to delivering higher quality services. Most councils believe they will have created appropriate infrastructure and bought the software needed to provide multi channel access by 2005. Managers are very positive about the level of performance improvement that could be achieved if ICT was fully exploited.SOCITM estimates that spending in 2004 will total almost 2.7 billion pounds, a 10% increase on last year. Councils are reporting planned increases in spending again in 2005/6. Revenue and capital spending on IT are both expected to rise, capital spending by 15% to almost £700 million with big investment in specific service areas.

Councils are continuing to buy technology for staff to use. There is a trend towards providing workers with mobile devices such as portables, smart phones and personal digital Assistants (PDA). Much of the technology that is used today in local government is supplied by a small number of multinational companies. Personal computing devices appear to be seen as a commodity bought through framework contract negotiated nationally.

Weaknesses in IT programmes include the alignment of initiatives and plans with community strategies. There is also a failure to integrate all council plans and initiatives. The effect of this will be to add to the strain on organisations and it may lead to an inappropriate use of resources and poor value for money. Partnerships with other government agencies and business also have some way to go to match expectations. Too many initiatives, conflicting priorities and poor coordination between organisations are identified as the main barriers to delivering a good e-government programme.

An increasing number of IT Managers report that they now have a major role within the council in helping to shape the direction of service development and deliver efficiencies. A new role is also developing for Chief Information Officers, following the model of the private sector, where a Board member is responsible not just for the ICT, but for the information systems and the information they contain. Only a handful of councils have so far followed this trend and given the management of information the same weighting as say the management of finance.