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FEATURES - E-GOV.UK

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According to research carried out for the office of the e-Envoy, the UK now has one of the best environments for de...
According to research carried out for the office of the e-Envoy, the UK now has one of the best environments for developing e-commerce and is making good progress with e-government.

The report, World's most effective policies for the e-economy, compares the UK with the US, Canada, Sweden, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Australia. It concludes the UK's relative strengths are in its market and political environments - regulatory openness, political leadership and IT capabilities - and the readiness of business and government for e-commerce. Our weaknesses are in citizen take-up, government take-up and, to a lesser extent, the national infrastructure.

These findings resonate with the Taylor Nelson Sofres report presented at the e-champions' annual conference this year, which put UK online government in the premier league. However, take-up put us in the third division: 'relatively few' UK citizens - 11% - use e-government compared

to 34% in the US and 46% in Canada.

The latest findings were announced at last week's e-summit meeting in London. At the same time the prime minister announced£1bn to be spent on broadband in the public sector,£6bn on IT in total over the next few years and new targets - all criminal justice organisations, schools, hospitals, GP surgeries, and primary-care trusts are to have broadband connections by 2006. These announcements made the headlines.

While the report acknowledges that the majority of citizen and business interactions with government take place at local government level, both the report and the prime minister had very little to say about progress being made by councils.

A few days later, however, the national strategy for local

e-government was published. The UK is believed to be the only country in the world that has such a strategy. The ODPM also announced the initial findings of the implementing electronic government process. This shows that by the end of 2002/3 councils expect to have 49% of their services online.

Surely local government deserved a slightly higher profile at the e-summit?

John Thornton

Director of e-government, The Improvement & Development Agency

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