The government has placed IT at the heart of its efforts to modernise public services and to make the UK a competitive global economy. It has defined five main targets.
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- The promotion of online services in central and local government to meet the December 2005 deadline. This has primarily been the role of the outgoing e-envoy's office, but the responsibility, power and impetus will be shared.
The responsibility for all government websites will lie with the newly appointed head of e-government, who will oversee the various chief information officers within lead government departments.
However, the financial responsibility is likely to be driven by the Treasury through the Office of Government Commerce, and the interaction with the services provided through local government will be driven by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
- The drive to have joined-up government in the back office, in which central government needs greater efficiencies, with departments able to communicate more quickly and effectively with each other.
The head of e-government based in the Cabinet Office will have a lead role working with the Office of Government Commerce to ensure suppliers work with lead government departments on cross-Whitehall delivery.
- Promoting the use of IT in UK business, especially small business. Responsibility for the adoption of IT and e-commerce has largely been an area for the Department of Trade and Industry.
This will remain with the DTI, though the Treasury will retain control of tax breaks to encourage IT investment and innovation.
- Evangelising IT usage and literacy among the UKpopulation, through the adoption of broadband services. This has been a role for the Department for Education and Skills, particularly in the promotion of e-skills, but concerns remain that not enough is being done. Many specialists feel that Gordon Brown, the chancellor, missed an opportunity in this year's Budget.
Although the chancellor highlighted the importance of IT investment to the UK economy and announced enhanced tax incentives for research and development, there were no measures to boost IT training and career development.
There have already been calls for the government to exempt employees and employers from paying income tax and national insurance contributions on full-time IT training.
The government has also been urged to widen the focus of its national skills strategy to cover more advanced IT skills. There is a need for more people with NVQ3 and NVQ4 skills with the capability to install computer systems based on software packages and eventually help to deliver e-government modernisation.
- Promoting the UK IT industry itself. The DTI is charged with this role and trade ministers regularly promote UK-based IT companies on overseas trips. However, hopes within the supplier community that an e-minister would champion its cause have dimmed as the OGC has focused on value for money from suppliers and Brown has failed to deliver hoped for tax breaks.