The government is losing huge sums of money because of inefficient use of the Internet, according to a report published Wednesday.
The report, commissioned by the National Audit Office, found that the potential to cut paperwork and save money is being drastically under-exploited. Report author, Professor Patrick Dunleavy claims that the Department of Social Security could save £7.7m annually if it shifted just two percent of the 160 million phone calls it receives each year to the Net. The DTI could save up to £60,000 per year by transferring the information it currently hands out in booklet form to the Internet.
The report also found many government sites were out of date, not co-ordinated with other sites and "relatively hard to navigate". A spokesman for NAO claims the government needs to rethink its Web presence. "An active Web site needs to be up to date and accurate and that is often not the case with government sites," he said. Departments also need to work more closely online he believes. "There is a big emphasis on joined-up government and the sites need to reflect this overlap," he said.
The report will be an embarrassment for the government, which has been vocal in its commitment to delivering services electronically. Prime Minister Tony Blair has vowed to put all government business online by 2008. While the report applauds the enthusiastic way e-business was embraced in the mid-1990's, it accuses government of falling behind.
Head of the all-party Internet group, Derek Wyatt MP believes it is not just services but the very nature of government that is threatened by the Internet. "We need a debate on the impact the Internet is having on the democratic process. The Internet redefines government, for example we don't need the civil service as it currently exists. If the government wants a knowledge-based society it has got to have that debate," he said.
The government agreed Monday to deliver quarterly reports to parliament on its progress with e-government.
See also: the e-commerce special.