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EDITIONS
Friday, 13 December, 2002, 00:19 GMT
Public 'turned off by e-government'
Man uses computer
Some government websites are out of date
Websites that give details on services such as transport, housing and education need to be more accessible and convenient to members of the public, says an influential group of MPs.

They found that information on some government sites - including the Downing Street website - was out of date or inaccurate.

Where take-up figures are available they often tell a depressing tale of low usage

Edward Leigh
They also called for better published information on the take-up of electronic services by the public.

The critical assessment of the government's progress in making services available on the web was made by the House of Commons public accounts committee.

The MPs said that people needed to be able to obtain information from a single source, and websites needed to be designed around specific services.

'Disappointed'

The office of the e-Envoy - the man in charge of getting government services on the net - had made "limited progress" in reporting departments' progress in putting services online.

The committee's Tory chairman Edward Leigh said: "I am very disappointed at the pedestrian progress in implementing the committee's previous recommendations.

"In particular we need to much better published information on take-up by the public.

"Where take-up figures are available they often tell a depressing tale of low usage.

Edward Leigh
Government sites are 'failing', says Mr Leigh
"This suggests the government sites are failing tests of accessibility and convenience."

The government allocated 1bn to try to get all public services - which can be transacted electronically - available online for citizens and businesses by 2005.

Tax returns

More than 800 central and local public sector bodies with over 3,000 websites provide information about their roles and responsibilities.

"By accessing the UKonline government site, the public can now link to the most relevant central body's website for their enquiry," the committee said.

"However, people are most interested in services, such as how to obtain support or care for an elderly relative, which is often the shared responsibility of a number of organisations.

The committee concluded: "More websites need to be designed around specific services that cut across organisational boundaries so people can access all the information they need on services such as transport, housing and education from a single source."

The MPs found that the public were "reluctant" to use some services like being able to submit tax returns to the Customs and Excise site - only 2,500 out of 1.65m VAT registered traders had signed up to do so.

"People are only likely to use online services if they are easier and more cost effective to use, more accessible and more convenient," said the committee.

"Simply converting conventional processes to internet-based applications will not realise the significant improvements in efficiency which IT can make possible."

The MPs found that the Downing Street website did not have a complete up to date list of ministers.

"On 12 June, the UK online site had as the latest 'hot topic' information on the Budget, nearly two months after the event," they said.

See also:

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