Thought for the day: Funding will not cure all

There is no cohesive, single vision for e-government

New Asset



There is no cohesive, single vision for e-government, argues Stuart Mitchenall.




Many working in IT in local government would like the opportunity to comment on recent reports that more funds should be made available to meet the e-government deadline in 2005.

The crux of this issue is encapsulated in an unanswered dichotomy: why is it that central government gets the lion's share of the funds, but is only required to carry out a small percentage of the transactions with the public?

Why is the office of the deputy prime minister only required to make "significant" progress towards 100% e-government, but local government is required to deliver absolute achievement?

Although many central government projects, such as the Inland Revenue and the Libra project, have been the victim of failure, local government seems to achieve most of its objectives through disparate implementations of not quite compatible systems from a plethora of suppliers.

Local government is driven by many different perspectives, but it is seemingly impossible for the e-envoy to deliver e-government, or the Government Gateway, to timescale.

Central government departments are doing their own thing, as witnessed by local government through their contradictory requirements.

From a design perspective, Whitehall's cogent and visionary policies should work. However, although £675m has already been invested in local e-government, it has never been capable of delivering this vision in a single, cohesive way to users.

If this had been achieved, I would not have suppliers still trying to sell me products which only interoperate with their software, instead of falling in behind the open standard e-government interoperability framework.

Few suppliers show an understanding of what XML does. I even had market research company Mori, on behalf of the office of the deputy prime minister, asking me how I was going to use XML to transmit data. Isn't that like asking me how I will use petrol to drive to Birmingham?

E-government is working, but there are still gaping holes which money alone will not plug.

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Stuart Mitchenall is head of IT at a local district council

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