Councils may fail to attract people to access services electronically despite meeting the government's end-of year deadline to get services online, public sector IT managers group Socitm has warned.
The government set targets to make all council services available online by the end of 2005 under the Best Value Performance Indicator (BVPI), which it uses to assess how well councils are being run. However, Socitm policy officer Adrian Hancock said local authority IT managers were questioning whether these artificial targets would lead to online services the public want to use.
The latest Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) survey, conducted by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, revealed that most councils are on course to meet the e-government deadline, and Hancock was optimistic that this would be achieved. "I think councils will meet the BVPI by the end of the year," he said. However, the BVPI fails to measure how many people are using online services.
Councils could put all their services online by the year end, attract no users and still comply with government targets. Hancock said, "Good examples of popular online local government services are not as thick on the ground as we thought they would be at this time." This is compounded by the fact that local authorities are still waiting for a common public sector authentication technology to be developed.
The services that are furthest from being available online are those that require complex authentication, such as social care. Public sector agency Government Connect was given £7m last week to develop several key services, including online authentication for citizens. According to the IEG survey, just 61% of councils had made regulation electronic and only 65% had made the payment of goods and services electronic.