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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Online government gets new chief
Andrew Pinder
Pinder is leaving the e-envoy post
The UK managing director of Accenture, Ian Watmore, has been appointed as Whitehall's new head of e-government.

The e-government unit's aim is to save money by making efficiency savings, and also to improve delivery of services to the general public.

He replaces e-envoy Andrew Pinder, who had the job of getting UK government services and the general public online.

Tony Blair said Mr Watmore would play a "pivotal role" in ensuring IT helped transform government.

New unit

Mr Watmore will answer to Cabinet Office Minister Douglas Alexander and report to Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull as head of the new e-government unit.

Accepting the new job, he said: 'The head of e-government is one of the biggest and most challenging IT positions in the UK today.

"Douglas Alexander and Sir Andrew Turnbull have set a formidable challenge in not only driving up use of government services online but also driving change, reform and efficiencies throughout the public sector by using IT.

"I'm looking forward to starting in the position and supporting all the work that Departments are delivering."

Getting Britain online

Mr Watmore leaves Accenture, previously known as Andersen Consulting, and which was last year awarded a 10-year NHS contract worth just over 1bn.

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt previously worked for the management consultancy giant.

Cabinet Office Minister Mr Alexander said the government had already made "notable" achievements in e-government, including putting 71% of its services online.

"The change to e-government unit represents a development from the original e-Envoy's task of 'getting the UK online', to ensuring that the government capitalises on the potential of ICT to both transform service delivery and achieve a step change in operational efficiency across the public sector."

Patchy record?

Mr Pinder's time at the helm of the e-government project did attract some criticism.

A report in February 2003 by research firm IDC said Ireland, France and Finland were leaders in Europe on providing systems to allow the public to transact with government over the net - with the UK picture far more patchy.

Think tank the Work Foundation also last year urged the government to downgrade its target of getting all public services online by 2005.

The target should not be scrapped completely, it said, but the top priority had to be increasing the number of people using online services.

The e-envoy himself also had to admit in 2002 that he could not get broadband at his south Shropshire home.

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