Whitehall loses grip on e-government targets

The number of missed deadlines for implementing the Government's UK online strategy has doubled since February, it emerged this...

The number of missed deadlines for implementing the Government's UK online strategy has doubled since February, it emerged this week.

James Rogers

With a general election expected in May the embarrassing admission coincided with two independent reports highly critical of the Government's plan to connect all departments to UK citizens by 2005.

The reports add to calls from industry for a rethink of the Government's strategy to make the UK the e-commerce centre of the world.

In a progress report to the prime minister, e-envoy Andrew Pinder last week revealed that 11 out of 94 action points are now behind schedule. In February only five online projects were behind schedule.

With a general election looming, a report by independent think-tank Demos, seen by Computer Weekly, warns that there is a real danger of Whitehall failing to meet its targets for joined-up electronic government.

Demos researcher Daniel Stedman Jones said, "The Government may miss some of their targets, which are too focused on deadlines and do not reflect the true benefits that e-government brings."

Demos argues that an over-emphasis on deadlines could force departments, agencies and local authorities to simply dump information on to Web sites instead of focusing on the provision of effective online services.

"E-government needs to be put at the centre of all government efforts to modernise, rather than the situation that we have at the moment, where it is treated like an add-on," Stedman Jones said.

Demos also urged the Government to create a more joined-up approach to online projects by allowing departments to share implementation funds for e-government projects in "dual key funding".

The e-government strategy has also come under fire from IT analyst Gartner. Earlier this week Gartner described the Government's goal of getting services online by 2005 as "over-ambitious". Gartner research director, Andrea di Maio said, "The future emphasis of e-government should be on integration frameworks," a sentiment echoed by Demos, which maintains that the Government should make integration its top priority.

Industry figures also expressed concern about the effectiveness of plans to develop e-government.

Jim Norton, head of e-business policy at the Institute of Directors, said, "The Government is failing because it is not recognising the people dimension and doing the work in the departments and agencies to make it work."

He said people within agencies and departments need to work together to integrate IT.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said, "All government departments now have e-business strategies. The key point here is that most of the projects are currently on schedule. We will endeavour to step up the work in those areas where it is needed."


Slow progress

Of 94 e-business projects

  • Eight projects have been completed

  • Eleven are behind schedule

  • Seventy five are on target.

    Deadline slippage accelerates as late projects double

    UK online projects currently behind schedule include:

  • Consultation on competition for leased lines

  • Ensuring competitive roll-out of 3G mobile telephones

  • Encouraging low-cost PC leasing schemes for public sector employees

  • Pilot Internet access for disadvantaged communities

  • Work with industry to promote the TrustUK hallmark for e-commerce Web sites

  • Expand DTI's promotion to business of information security best practice (BS7799)

  • Innovative pilot e-procurement projects

  • Ensure businesses maximise benefits from investments in science-based infrastructure

  • Provide incentives for universities to commercialise with ITEC research

  • Develop a strategy for secure, innovative introduction to mobile commerce.

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