Yes, e-Minister

Come with us to the heart of Government, where IT is at the top of the agenda at last...

Scene: The Prime Minister's office. The PM is frowning at his computer, while Sir Humphrey is discreetly checking his BlackBerry

PM: "Humphrey, what's this latest nonsense from the LSE? Some professor called Angell says that we're being undemocratic by promoting e-government!"

Sir H: "Now, where did you read that?"

PM: "A news Web site."

Sir H: "Oh, you can't trust them, PM. I'm rather inclined to agree with him on that point, let some people online and look at the problems it causes. Still, the LSE has produced some troublemakers in its time. Isn't that your old place?"

PM: "Never mind that, Humphrey. What about this business of government IT excluding the needy? He says we're leaving behind the incapable. We can't allow this."

H: "Quite the opposite, Prime Minister. If 20 percent of people can't use computers, then eighty percent can. If we cut our staff by 70 percent and force that 80 percent 100 percent online, that leaves 30 percent to cope with the remaining 20 percent, who thus get 50 percent more for a pro rata outlay of 33 percent, which is more than offset by the initial reduction."

PM: "Eh?"

H: "Those who can use computers leave more resources for those who can't."

PM: "Aha! And 80 percent of people can?"

H: "Actually, Prime Minister, eighty percent could. If they had the equipment. Only sixty percent do, leaving..."

PM: "Don't start all that again. So, can we encourage the rest to get online? Some sort of tax break, perhaps?"

H: "Like the Home Computing Initiative?"

PM: "That's it! Exactly! Joined-up government at its finest. How's that going?"

H: "The Chancellor stopped it. Says the feckless were abusing it for useless gadgets and downloads of Internet pornography."

PM: "Sounds like excellent training for working in Government IT, eh, Humphrey?"

H: "No, Prime Minister."

PM: "No? How about those chaps who were led out by the ear after Inspector Knacker found all that stuff on your departmental server? Are they part of the pro rata redeployment?"

H: "I hardly think that's what Professor Angell is complaining about."

PM: "To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what he's complaining about. Systemic corruption in Government. What rot. And do stop fidgeting with that gizmo, Humphrey. What's it telling you now?"

H: "Interesting news, Prime Minister. Fanshaw from the Treasury has finally resurfaced."

PM: "Really? After the muck-up he made of looking after that tax project, I'm surprised he dare show his face in Whitehall."

H: "When he does, it'll be from the back of a large car, PM. He's taken over as chairman of Capita. Shall I alert the honours committee?"

PM: "That will be all, Humphrey."

H: "Yes, Prime Minister."

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