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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Government urged to get online
Man uses computer
Hopes to have all services online by 2005 are "at risk"
Rapid progress is needed if the government is to encourage people to access services such as benefits online, an influential group of MPs has said.

Across the board, the government needs to make things like driving licence applications properly available online, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said.


More rapid progress needs to be made to enable people to carry out transactions with government

Edward Leigh

The government has indicated that 100% of services should be available via the web by 31 December, 2005.

But the MPs warned that the public were unlikely to want to use electronically provided services unless they perceived "real benefits" from doing so.

Routine services

Their report said: "Information technology provides opportunities to improve public services by delivering them in new ways often more quickly, and more accessibly ... has yet to be realised.

"For example, very few of the services which most citizens routinely use can be fully accessed online such as applying for a driving licence, which is processed electronically and then received in the post.

Tax form
The Inland Revenue's online service is now back in use
"Departments need to concentrate their efforts on identifying and making fully available on-line those services which citizens are most likely to find useful."

But there was a warning in the report of the danger of excluding groups like the elderly from access to services.

The MPs said good market research was needed as well as the provision of internet access in a range of locations including libraries, community centres as well as places like post offices.

Marketing strategies

Committee chairman Edward Leigh told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This announcement was made with great fanfare that you will be able to get everything online by 2005.

"The reality is that most of these services just consist of a website or, for instance, you can do some of the process online but then you have to complete it by post.

"So this commitment really isn't being delivered properly."

Rapid progress was needed so people could get important government services online.

Better marketing was also needed to encourage people to use what was available on the internet, said Mr Leigh.

Cost cutting

Such work could reap potentially "huge savings" for government.

The Conservative MP said Inland Revenue was one department which had now improved its online services and were now "probably the leaders".

The Inland Revenue's online self-assessment service had to be taken down at the end of May after a very small amount of users reported seeing snippets of other people's information.

The service was restored at the end of June and the Inland Revenue says an unprecedented amount of people have used it in recent weeks.

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 ON THIS STORY
Commons Public Accounts Committee's Edward Leigh
"This commitment is not really being delivered properly"
See also:

07 Jun 02 | Technology
06 May 02 | Wales
04 Apr 02 | Politics
05 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
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