E-envoy's office seeks to break down barriers

The e-envoy's industry director explains his role and objectives.

The e-envoy's industry director explains his role and objectives.

David Taylor

Last month, Andrew Pinder was confirmed as the Government's e-envoy. Although he had been acting e-envoy since October last year, the agency has, until now, been keeping a low profile. As director for industry at the Office of the E-envoy, Richard Barrington, is the link between the Government and the IT industry.

What do you see as the main role of the e-envoy's office?

The office's main task is to be the focal point for the Government's activities in creating the knowledge economy both within and without government. The prime minister has established a vision and it's up to us to ensure delivery. This includes being involved in strategy planning, monitoring of progress and gap analysis.

We have also taken ownership for the e-government agenda which will transform the Government into a customer relationship management focused e-business.

What is your personal responsibility?

I'm a bi-directional conduit between industry and the office. Not just the IT industry but all sections of the British economy. Most of my early career experience was spent within the small and medium sized enterprise community and I hope I understand their needs reasonably well. I've been spending time with a couple of start-ups as well as traditional businesses to understand the dynamics of the marketplace, barriers to e-adoption and so on.

I maintain close links with the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors and organisations such as Interforum, working with them to ensure the business perspective is included in our thinking and plans for the future.

I've also been sharing our experience with audiences from Norway to Hong Kong.

How can IT and business leaders help with your aims?

It is critical that they engage with us and support the government agenda when we get it right. A recently discredited survey suggested it had interviewed a range of senior figures on the government supply side who were very negative about our plans, yet not one of them has approached us.

Government has a role in looking beyond the short-term shareholder value horizons of most companies and is trying to build a strong economy for the 21st century built on the UK strengths of innovation and entrepreneurship. We have failed to capitalise on the creativity of the past and we really want to learn from that and ensure we build a stable and equitable fabric for the future success of the UK. This isn't a spectator sport. Got a problem? Get off the bench and tell us.

Some would say governments are judged by what they do, not what they say. How is the UKGovernment doing?

That is fair comment and I really believe the UK is committed to its objectives and is en route to 2005. As an outsider now on the inside I know that for every imagined Luddite erecting barriers within the civil service there are 10 working to deliver the vision of joined-up government centred on the needs of its customers. That commitment runs throughout the civil service and the focus on change management is impressive.

Some excellent examples of the adoption of e-business already exist, from credit card-charged access to Companies House data, videoconferencing at the Environment Agency and weather information to your mobile phone from the Met Office.

Is the traditional civil service/ government structure amenable to e-government?

No. That's why each department has been creating an e-business strategy, some better than others, which will form a blueprint for the creation of e-government. We have seen the creation of a number of inter-departmental networks, for example, the consumer champions, to facilitate change within the service.

The latest manifestation of the reforming instinct is the establishment of a government incubator which will go live in the next couple of months to really push the envelope of what is possible within a risk-reward, no-blame environment.

David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is published by ButterworthHeinemann. Tel: 01865-88180

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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