Government to shake up its Web plans

Labour wants to wake up to the Net age and bring Whitehall along for the ride

Labour announced plans this week to bring dotcom thinking to Whitehall in an effort to transform relationships between the government and the public.

It follows criticism of government's ability to use the Web. Recent reports from the National Audit Office have found government Web sites to be inefficient, hard to navigate and wasteful of taxpayers' money. To add to the embarrassment, IT projects, like the MoD's attempt to update the RAF's communications system, were scrapped, costing millions.

In an effort to address the problem, the UK's e-envoy Alex Allan launched an e-government report, laying out a framework for delivering public services in the Internet age.

One of the initiatives is to move forward the electronic delivery of services from 2008 to 2005 with all departments charged with coming up with e-business strategies by October of this year. At a government Web awards forum last month, civil servants expressed discontent at the number of e-initiatives landing on their desks from central office and called for more funding.

In order to find out what the public requires from electronic delivery of services, Allan commissioned a People's Panel to find out what would be most useful to citizens. Nearly half of participants highlighted the need to contact government agencies at weekends and evenings, singling out the Inland Revenue, the DVLA, passport agency and adult education services as the departments they would be most likely to contact electronic.

"The government who are providing the service must bear in mind the working habits of their customers and provide a service that meets he customers' needs, not just theirs," says one participant.

Other plans for wiring government include the launch of a portal site in July. This will provide a single point of entry to all government services and will allow citizens to personalise their homepage. The government also plans to make its services available on mobile phones, digital TV and via call centres in an effort to tackle social exclusion.