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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: PUBLIC BODIES SEE TROUBLE AHEAD

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Almost a third (29%) of UK public sector bodies foresee difficulties in fulfilling their obligations under freedom ...
Almost a third (29%) of UK public sector bodies foresee difficulties in fulfilling their obligations under freedom of information law due to come into force in January 2005, according to new research due to be published tomorrow in E-Government Outlook 2004-05 (http://www.headstar.com/egovoutlook/).

The survey is published in the latest annual independent study of e-government in the UK from Headstar, the publishers of email newsletter E-Government Bulletin. The number of respondents foreseeing difficulties with meeting the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the FOI (Scotland) Act 2002 has increased from 25.7% last year.

Some 38% of respondents do not foresee difficulties in compliance, with a third - 33% - unable to predict whether or not problems will arise. The latter finding shows there is still a high level of uncertainty about the scale of the problems posed by FOI compliance, just months away from implementation.

Other survey findings include that almost two-thirds of people working in the UK e-government sector (59%) do not believe the government's new flagship website ' Directgov' will have any more impact than UK online, the service it replaces.

Some 40 per cent of public sector staff are not yet even aware of the existence of Directgov, according to the survey of our UK public sector readers. The Directgov site aims to pull in content from across the public sector, becoming a destination site for most visitors rather than a mere gateway to the web sites of other bodies.

When asked to identify the major challenges they face in implementing e-government projects over the next 12 months, almost a third of survey respondents (28.7 per cent) expressed concern about lack of time and resources; 19 per cent mentioned culture and business change; and 15.4 per cent identified systems integration problems. Other concerns centred on user take-up; support from senior managers and politicians; and accessibili ty.

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