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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Ministers urged to be more web-wise
More government services should be available online, a watchdog says
More services should be offered online, the report says
The government has "much to do" to deliver services - such as applying for a driving licence - on the internet, according to the auditor general.

Despite the millions spent on government websites, it is still not possible to claim or receive benefits online, says the National Audit Office report.


A significant amount of taxpayers' money is being spent on delivering public services through electronic means

Sir John Bourn
Auditor general

While the government has indicated that 100% of services should be available via the web by 31 December, 2005, only a limited number are, says the Better Public Service Through e-Government paper.

More than half of the 524 services routinely provided are online, but most offer information only.

There are only seven services that provide grants and benefits on the internet and none collect revenue, the NAO report found.

Costly

Auditor general Sir John Bourn said government departments had "much to do" if taxpayers are to see the full benefits of online technology.

He warned the creators of internet services to avoid excluding lower-income groups who have less access to computers.

He said there was a danger of low take-up from the public and the possibility of failure to develop projects that the public required.


The major challenge is to get services online and to encourage and enable people to use them

Sir John Bourn
Auditor general

The report stated that internet services should be made quicker and cheaper than the alternative of filling forms on paper, making them more attractive to online users.

Sir John said: "A significant amount of taxpayers' money is being spent on delivering public services through electronic means.

"We have found examples of innovative practice, but there is much to do to realise the full potential from using internet technology and ensure a sufficient number of people use public services delivered electronically.

"The major challenge is to get services online and to encourage and enable people to use them.

"Otherwise, the considerable potential gains in departments' efficiency will not be delivered and large amounts of public money will have been wasted."

See also:

31 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Struggle to get broadband
21 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
UK slow to close digital divide
18 Dec 01 | Business
Government pushes home internet use
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