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Sunday, 21 April, 2002, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
Britons 'do not want e-government'
UK Online
The government portal is difficult to navigate
A former civil servant has added his voice to recent criticisms of the UK's e-government policy, questioning whether people actually want online services.

Business development officer for NextiraOne Ken D'Rosario was scathing about the government's determination to be a world leader in the delivery of electronic services.

"It is rhetoric rather than reality. I think the government has focused on an objective which isn't in line with what citizens want," he said at the Public Sector Expo in London's Docklands.

Instead of spending time and money on putting services online, the government should be concentrating on traditional contact methods such as the telephone and face-to-face, he argued.

"People like to interact by phone or face-to-face. Money should be invested in making these services better and providing more staff for call centres," he said.

"At the moment the government is giving citizens what it thinks they want rather than what they actually want."

Offering choice

Government officials say that online services are not intended to replace other methods of communication.

Ken D'Rosario
D'Rosario: Do citizens want online services?
"It is about offering a variety of service deliveries," said a spokesperson for the Office of the e-Envoy.

Mr D'Rosario spent 20 years as a civil servant, first in the Treasury and for the last 10 years at the Telecommunications Agency on major government projects.

Fed up with pushing his point internally, Mr D'Rosario decided to move into private industry.

NextiraOne, formerly Alcatel's e-business arm, works closely with government on its communication projects.

Money wasted?

The government has come in for scathing criticism about its plans to put all services online by 2005.

Head of the National Audit Office, Sir John Bourn, said earlier this month that there was "much to do" to realise the full potential of using internet technology.


If you are looking to find out how much your council tax will cost you, it will take a computer-literate person 10 to 15 minutes to get there

Ken D'Rosario, NextiraOne
He was concerned that taxpayers' money was being wasted on delivering electronic services.

Another of the government's private sector partners, Novell, has cast doubt on the targets set for e-government and analyst firm Forrester published a critical report on the progress of projects.

Currently, around 11% of the population connect with the government online.

Mr D'Rosario is adamant that the government will not achieve its target.

"It won't and it is already paving the way to admitting that. It is now hoping to achieve about 70% but I think even that is optimistic," he said.

The government says it is still very much on target.

"Our projection is to have 99.9% of services online by the end of 2005," said a spokesperson for the Office of the e-Envoy.

Test schemes

The government has piloted all sorts of schemes to allow better interaction with the citizen.

An e-voting scheme in Liverpool is planned that will let residents register their vote via text messages from a mobile phone.

A self assessment website which allows self-employed citizens to submit their tax forms online has been hailed as an excellent example of using the web.

It has, however, only been used by a tiny percentage of people.

"What people really need is someone to talk them through how to fill in the form," commented Mr D'Rosario.

Even the government's flagship portal, UK Online, was failing to connect citizens to the information they want, said Mr D'Rosario.

"If you are looking to find out how much your council tax will cost you it will take an IT-literate person 10 to 15 minutes to get there," he said.

Instead of creating flashy portals, the government should go back to basics and make sure the information citizens wanted was easily accessible, he argued.

The government says it has recently redesigned the UK Online site following feedback from citizens.

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Challenges ahead for e-government
15 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Taking the web to the people
27 Aug 01 | dot life
Government starts with E
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