Government ignored key advice on 'avoidable contact', says Socitm

The government is ignoring important advice regarding its national indicator on cutting "avoidable contact", according to the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm).

The government is ignoring important advice regarding its national indicator on cutting "avoidable contact", according to the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm).

The policy of "avoidable contact" aims to encourage citizens to use channels such as a website rather than interacting with staff face-fo-face or using telephone services, with the aim of cutting costs.

The Society for Information Management says the NI 14 indicator fails to follow advice given in a report by David Varney, which addressed the role of the web in reducing "avoidable contact" with citizens and businesses.

NI 14 is one of 198 new national indicators for local authorities, announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 (CSR207). It will also become one of two key progress measures set out in the Service Transformation Agreement, also part of CSR07.

Socitm says that NI 14 does not give the web enough prominence when when it comes to enabling councils to "avoid contact".

The issue is important for councils because of the raised efficiency targets they must meet following CSR07. New figures show a web transaction is 24 times less costly than a telephone transaction, and 46 times cheaper than face-to-face.

The Varney report recommends that public sector bodies reduce the number of telephone information requests by 50%, making the web the primary source for simple information and advice. But, Socitm said most councils "could do better" when it comes to presenting information properly and making the site easy to use.

Socitm said, "NI 14 makes no reference as to how this important aspect of reducing 'avoidable contact' might be measured".

Socitm said one option is to identify and count all information and service requests coming in through traditional channels that could be completed via the web. Reduction through traditional channels could then be measured over time.




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