Government IT 'failing the socially excluded'

E-government projects are apparently failing to reach those they would help most

E-government is failing to reach socially excluded groups, and a clearer vision from Whitehall is needed to fix this, according to new research from the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA).

The organisation said that while the UK e-government programme has produced many benefits for local authorities and citizens, its study of the digital access activities of 78 local authorities found that the benefits of digital transformation "frequently fail to reach socially excluded groups".

And, it said, enhancing the reach and effectiveness of services provided to socially excluded groups "does reap considerable efficiency gains".

Socially excluded groups are least likely to access or benefit from IT, as they may have problems such as unemployment, homelessness, health issues and learning difficulties.

But the report said most services are provided for a generic, predominantly literate and able-bodied audience. And guidance to local authorities has focused on broad delivery targets, rather than on encouraging authorities to think about what the public might use.

The result, according to the report, is that social inclusion strategies rarely consider the role of IT, and e-government strategies don't take into account the needs of individuals who are socially excluded.

The IDeA report said: "A more prescriptive approach, with clear objectives, will help to generate more purposeful action from local authorities that meets the needs of socially excluded groups."