Whitehall offers e-role to dot.coms

14 Sep 00
Dot.com companies could soon be processing passport applications, driving licences and even benefits under plans to allow the private and voluntary sectors to deliver on-line government services.

15 September 2000

Prime Minister Tony Blair was in Leicestershire this week to launch UK Online, a £1bn campaign to get all services on the web by 2005.

Blair said it would create 'new opportunities' for the private sector. Frustrated by the slow pace of e-commerce in Whitehall, the prime minister is keen to see services hived off to dot.com companies already bundling basic government information, such as postcode and map sites.

Poorly performing services, such as housing and council tax benefits, could also be transferred to private and voluntary sector suppliers.

'These are not random ideas,' said Blair. 'There is a revolution going on in our economy. The government's job is to help with that change.'

Yet behind the rhetoric of the launch lurks the fact that there is still no date for the launch of the government's own Internet portal – produced by private contractor BT and the access gate to the proposed joined-up on-line services.

And a highly critical report from the Performance and Innovation Unit, also published this week, shows how far there is to go in changing established attitudes.

The unit criticises Whitehall's progress, with only 33% of services on-line, saying that the only way to speed up e-government is to open public services to competition.

The unit also wants a review of advertising on public sector sites, pointing out that the government is forgoing a huge source of revenue. It estimates that advertisements just on the old central information site, www.open.gov.uk could generate £17m a year.

The report recommends a partnership between the e-envoy Alex Allan and the Treasury to allocate the funding, granted in July's Spending Review. The pay system of civil servants could also be reformed to reflect the on-line strategy, it says.

The PIU also sets targets for on-line government services, including all Whitehall procurement contracts to be sent and received electronically by 2002.

By December 2005, the unit wants driving test applications and car tax on the Internet, as well civil court claims and public records in an electronic format.


Did you enjoy this article?