Headlines: October 27th, 2000

The Post office has started to move its 18,500 branches into the information age by signing a deal with UKVillages.co.uk, an independent company that raises revenue through sponsorship. All post offices will have their own webpage, free of charge, where they can set out their services, special offers and news. Following successful piloting the project is being extended across the UK.The success of transforming postmasters into webmasters is crucial to Government plans for the Post Office to re-invent itself and diversify by turning branches into one stop e-Government shops and Internet learning centres. This vision was published in a Cabinet Office report that described the largest retail network in the country as a ‘sleeping giant’.

E-government shops are an essential feature of plans to bridge the digital divide and provide for people who are unable, or unwilling to use technology. Each shop will have a ‘Government General Practitioner’ whose role will be to act as a guide, providing information and low-level advice on local and central government matters such as applying for a disabled parking badge, council housing information, or pension entitlement. To do this job practitioners will need skill to navigate the Internet, as well as having sharp minds to penetrate the density of questions and explanatory notes on official forms.