Mandarins need huge e-shake-up

Progress towards e-government is looking increasingly as if it might follow the familiar path of all too many large, complex...

Progress towards e-government is looking increasingly as if it might follow the familiar path of all too many large, complex IT-based public sector projects.

There is too much emphasis on the "e" and IT aspects and targets, but not enough on the fundamental process re-engineering of Whitehall that needs to underlie the programme.

The targets are sufficiently vague to be politically palatable - or at least debatable - as they come up. There are signs, however, of increasing unease in Downing Street, which only wants to hear "can do".

But how many top civil servants really appreciate the depth and extent of re-engineering demanded in a truly joined-up organisation? It is not enough to paste a veneer of "e" of IT over the traditional web of hierarchy and compartmentalisation so brilliantly parodied in Yes Minister.

Concern is mounting that many senior public sector people do not fully appreciate the retraining, reskilling, relocation and redundancy e-government requires.

Much IT brainpower and many excellent pilot projects are under way. The real test will be their full integration and adoption as mainstream. We hear of trouble accessing information across the silos of government by even the biggest pan-government e-procurement programme.

As with all IT-related projects there are fundamental non-IT nettles to be grasped - and little sign of this happening.

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