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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Hard work ahead for online rulers
Tax form, BBC
Tax offices were among the first to put services online
The gloss may have fallen off dot.com companies on the stock market, but among governments the web is more popular than ever.

The fourth annual survey of e-government by consulting firm Accenture reveals the increasingly sophisticated use many national authorities are making of the net.

The 22 governments monitored in the survey are all putting more services online and fine-tuning existing ones to meet the needs of citizens.

But the report warns that governments must work harder to ensure that online services are used and that those who need help, get it.

Working the web

The report ranks the 22 governments according to the extent and complexity of their web use.

Governments on the bottom rung of the ranking system have set up websites but list simply information rather than offer any services.

Those on the top rung allow citizens to go online and carry out complete transactions, such as calculate and pay tax bills, and are using the experience of putting services online to transform work methods in government departments.

Pensioner using computer, PA
It can be hard to get everyone using e-government services
Only one country, Canada, is ranked as reaching this level of complexity, and, for the third year running, it is seen as having the most sophisticated e-government.

Many other nations, including the UK, US, Singapore and Australia, are ranked one step below.

These nations have many services online, co-ordinate web work well across departments and are developing better ways of measuring who they are reaching.

The Accenture report notes that these second tier nations face a lot of hard work as their use of the web gets more sophisticated.

It said that the job of turning leaflets and advice booklets into websites was much easier than using the move to web services as a chance to confront and change entrenched ways of working.

Big changes

Many governments are adopting and adapting the tools used by big e-commerce firms to understand how people use official websites and to tailor the information citizens see.

Despite the success that many governments are having with their online ventures, the report warns that more needs to be done to ensure that public money is not wasted.

Baby on mother's shoulder, BBC
Governments need to ensure those who need help, get it
The study recommends that governments abandon targets that measure success based on giving everything they do a website. Instead, they should do more to work out if what they are doing is actually useful.

The report suggests that while governments are getting more sophisticated in their use of the web, many of their citizens are not.

"Governments are finding themselves confronted with the challenge of low usage and the need for innovative methods of driving take-up," said the report.

Without more work to ensure online services are widely available and visible, few people will turn to the web to interact with local and central authorities.

The report warned: "The potential benefits of eGovernment- improved service, greater efficiency and potential cost savings - will not be realized if usage of the services is low."




SEE ALSO:
Cost of government websites revealed
03 Apr 03  |  Technology
UK 'lags in e-government'
25 Feb 03  |  Technology
Public 'turned off by e-government'
13 Dec 02  |  Politics
E-government site proves a hit
06 Nov 02  |  Technology
Government urged to get online
28 Aug 02  |  Politics
Belgium plans digital ID cards
04 Oct 02  |  Technology
Fears raised over e-voting
17 Oct 02  |  Politics


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