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A survey outlines what councils need to help them hit the e-government deadline, says John Thornton...
A survey outlines what councils need to help them hit the e-government deadline, says John Thornton

The Improvement & Development Agency recently asked councils how confident they were of hitting the 2005 e-government target. Forty per cent of respondents said they were confident or very confident, while only 18% said that they were not confident.

If representative, this would mean about 155 English councils are confident of hitting the target and about 70 councils would admit to struggling. Work over the next 12-18 months will influence the outcome heavily.

The response times to the electronic questionnaire help to show the value of the e-champions' network - 20% of councils responded within four hours, 25% within eight hours and, overall, one third of English councils responded within three days.

Two thirds of respondents viewed central government support as very important or essential. Three quarters cited the establishment of

e-government standards as being of the highest priority.

In order of importance, the other priorities are: co-ordination of central government input; authentication; information and advice; formal guidance; and products from pathfinders/national projects.

Local e-champions were invited to comment on other areas that were of concern to them. The vast majority

said there was a need for additional financial support and resources. Many commented on the definition of the 2005 target and the need for stability in any system of measurement. Although some wanted more guidance, others wanted to avoid this.

Other comments dealt with the need for a unique reference number for members of the public and the need for broadband.

Not surprisingly, the importance of change management, the need to help the public to develop the skills to use the systems and getting the 'buy in' from sometimes sceptical councillors and chief officers were raised.

The need to sort out the legal framework and to deal with privacy issues and data sharing rated highly.

There is always the danger that it is the confident and more engaged councils that respond most promptly to such surveys. Overall, however, this survey reflects well on local government and shows the majority of councils are engaging positively to hit the 2005 target.

John Thornton

Director of e-government, IDeA

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