The ODPM has released a consultation paper seeking views on the draft proforma for round three of the implementing e-government statements. The Society of IT Management has been taking a keen interest in the development of the draft and has been in consultation with the ODPM to get across the society's views.
Back in 2001, those at the sharp end of developing e-government cautiously welcomed the concept of getting all councils to define how they intended implement it. Many council IT heads recognised the potential of using the IEG process to establish links with the broader modernisation programme, and to raise the profile of e-government with the political and officer leadership. However, producing the first IEG statement was an onerous task. Even the promise of £200,000 was looked on with some misgivings - many larger councils wondered if the effort was worth the return. However, eventually all councils submitted an IEG1
The first round of IEGs was therefore a useful if gruelling exercise. The following year, the guidance for producing IEG2 was more prescriptive. But the focus remained mainly on strategic issues alongside an increased emphasis on identifying the financial implications of introducing e-government.
The role e-government can play in breaking down organisational silos was stressed with the requirement to identify how partnerships would be used to support e-government development. There was an expectation that IEG2s would be approved by the senior management team and councillors. More importantly, the ODPM was seeking evidence that e-government was intended to effect a major transformation of services - although while ICT would be the enabler and catalyst, councils were encouraged to recognise e-gove rnment was not merely a technology initiative.
The final version of the Local e-government national strategy was released in November 2002, too late to inform the IEG2 submission. Those councils whose IEG2s were identified by the ODPM as requiring further effort were not identified as 'failing' - as they had been in 2001 - but were invited to IEG2 clinics to help them amend their statements. Both Socitm and the Improvement & Development Agency were involved in that process. Ultimately all the IEG2s were considered acceptable and all councils have benefited from a further £200,000 grant.
Drawing on the experience of its members in preparing IEG2 statements and from the IEG2 clinics, Socitm devoted considerable effort to considering its position on the future of the IEG process.
Given the level of additional resourcing for e-government, it was reasonable that some national monitoring of local progress take place. The emphasis needed to switch from strategy and policy development to monitoring implementation. The process of producing an IEG needed to be less burdensome and this could be best achieved by simplifying the information requirements.
Of course, the proforma is not without its challenges. The tables required to monitor progress on achieving the national electronic service delivery targets (BVPI 157), access channel take-up and resources committed to
e-government remain unchanged from last year. While the rationale for this is obvious - it permits year-on-year comparisons - there was a feeling last year that at least some of the information requested in these tables was both difficult to obtain and not necessarily truly indicative of what the ODPM was trying to measure. It would perhaps have been better to take the opportunity this year to make improvements.
The proposed IEG3 proforma will undoubtedly allow the government to ascertain the national e-government picture more easily and comprehensively than in previous years. Of particular interest to Socitm is that councils wil l be able to easily identify those gaps in their e-government implementation plans - which in turn affect service improvement - thereby enabling actions to be identified to address these shortcomings.
The situation in local government is more confused than the rest of the public sector, as e-government is sometimes seen to be 'competing' in some way with other modernisation initiatives, for example comprehensive performance assessment. It is pleasing the ODPM recognises that these are complementary, not rival initiatives. Within the CPA, those councils that have not done well in achievement, investment, capacity or performance management may particularly need to consider the role e-government can play in delivering improvements as part of a wider strategy for improvement planning.'
n Socitm has arranged three national workshops in London, Leeds and the West Midlands during late May and early June to help e-champions and heads of ICT come to grips with the new process. The ODPM will be in attendance at each event to explain their thinking and to answer questions. The workshops will not only be of assistance to the attendees, but also inform Socitm's response to the consultation process.
Ernest Wardle & Glyn Evans
Socitm Information Age Government Group