Thought for the day: Don't just blame the technology

The wheels of e-government grind too slowly for Simon Moores, who claims that bureaucracy and mismanagement are still slowing...

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The wheels of e-government are grinding slowly, complains Simon Moores. Bureaucracy and mismanagement are slowing down transactions that should take seconds to complete.



Call it a retrospective if you like, I am wondering where the "e" in government has worked for me in 2003. I’m casting my mind back on the old year for evidence of a smooth and painless experience, but I can’t find one.

Together with my Christmas cards came a reprimand from the VAT office. My quarterly payment was six days late and my knuckles were firmly rapped. Again.

This was despite me taking the advice of my local VAT inspector and instructing my bank to issue a transfer three days before the VAT payment deadline.

This proved to have been a bad idea. My account may have been debited immediately but it took another six days to credit the funds to Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, because a weekend lay in the way, leaving me up the creek without the proverbial paddle.

Surely, this whole "e" thing is supposed to make life simpler for business, but all I’m seeing is a steady increase in red tape and complexity and more single points of failure coming in my direction. This leads to a consensus among my business friends that building any new IT service company today is not worth the stress and effort involved in dealing with different government departments and regulations.

Meanwhile, an expensive and mushrooming bureaucracy is crushing domestic productivity and innovation in the belief that the right mix of technology and taxation hold the solution to the gross inefficiencies of the public sector.

After last month's verdict on the Soham tragedy we can see that the collision between the criminal justice system and technology has given us speed cameras and CCTV but very little else to be proud of. 

Our policing, it appears, remains at the mercy of private-sector incompetents, the usual suspects responsible for large and expensive public sector failures in other vital areas of government.

December’s fourth UK Online Annual Report tells us that e-government is a great success and we can expect more “automation and integration of back office functions”.

“Public sector internal administration”, we are told,” should be standardised and made self-service." These are grand words, but let’s face it, we are surrounded if not suffocated by examples of expensive failure in the most vital, mission-critical areas of our society, health, taxation, education, transport, criminal justice, child support, social services, the list is endless.

Technology might hold the answer but, like the railways, once you start outsourcing the responsibilities you find the trains no longer run on time, the tracks are not maintained properly and many of the businesses involved don’t even manage to achieve the lowest common denominator of service, even with the billions of pounds of taxpayer funded technology at their disposal.

What if the public private partnership and a great deal of  the "e" in government is generating more expense and failure than we are prepared to admit? How much longer can we carry on before the wheels really start to fall off the public sector?  Or maybe I’m only being cynical and December’s UK Online Report is a shining example of better chemistry through e-government.

What do you think?

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Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit

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