Society helps to promote the e-government agenda

IT professional bodies are getting together to give the Government their views on key issues and help increase awareness of...

IT professional bodies are getting together to give the Government their views on key issues and help increase awareness of online government services, writes John Kavanagh.

The BCS has been leading the way after a series of meetings with e-envoy Andrew Pinder and senior officials from the Department of Trade & Industry. Last month, BCS president Geoff McMullen chaired a meeting with representatives of the Institute for the Management of Information Systems, the Institute of Directors, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists to discuss joint action.

"There are several ways in which these bodies, acting together, can help," says McMullen. "These include offering opinion on matters of the day, with an emphasis on collective views; providing the opinions of small focus groups of experts for consultation; and providing wide-ranging samples of professionals for research on current or planned policy.

"The meeting agreed to take forward the development of collective structures to make this possible over the coming few months."

Another area in which the BCS plans to help the Government has arisen directly from meetings with Pinder. The society plans to ask its members to spread the word about the beneficial effects of IT.

"There is a lot of e-commerce and other Internet activity in the UK but Andrew Pinder feels many people are still unaware of it, and there are concerns that the UK will get a digital divide," says Charles Hughes, BCS vice-president, member services, who is close to government officials after being seconded from ICL to lead the development of the Information Society and IT for All initiatives.

Pinder's concerns were underlined by a report by the National Audit Office in April. This shows that central government has some way to go to meet the target of having all public services online by 2005. In particular, the report calls on the Office of the E-Envoy to accelerate the dissemination and adoption of good practice to encourage members of the public to take up the services that are available online.

"We can help here," says Hughes. "We can talk sensibly about the impact of the e-revolution on society without going over the top, as some observers do. And this activity fits in with The BCS' royal charter."

The royal charter, granted in 1984, says one of the BCS' tasks is to promote the practice of computing and to advance knowledge and education in this field for the benefit of the public.

Hughes says, "Andrew Pinder has a lot of ideas, and he would especially like a meeting of minds among the professional bodies. We are now organising this, as we are by far the biggest and arguably the most successful of them."

McMullen says that, with almost 40,000 members, the BCS is now seen as a spokesman for the sector - a body that can quickly tap into the professional community to give its views.

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