'

MPs diss government's online plans

MPs without email criticise the government's e-strategy...

A report published Thursday reveals scant belief among MPs in the government's ability to put all its services online by 2005.

Ironically those same MPs have revealed that less than half of them have an email address.

The report, commissioned for the World Internet Forum in November and performed by Mori, found only 61 percent of 101 MPs interviewed were confident that the government will meet its deadline for all services to be available online by 2005. The figure represents a 13 percent drop since January.

Eighty-nine percent of Labour MPs and 72 percent of Conservative MPs are also troubled by the digital divide in the UK, believing that citizens who do not have access to the Internet will be at a disadvantage.

"Both the elected and senior civil servants in Parliament need to be educated in the many opportunities that the Internet will provide. It's impossible to implement plans to get the government online when less than half of MPs have a personal email address," said Robert Blaney, chief executive officer of the World Internet Forum.

The news follows the launch of Tony Blair's UK Online initiative last Monday, which earmarked £1bn for getting all government services online by 2005. The revitalised e-government initiative also warned all businesses that they have 15 months to move online, or face being ostracised by the government.

"It's almost the norm that the government talks a lot about the Internet, but they're not so good at putting it into practice as they don't fully understand how to," said Blaney. He argued that the government needs to be recruiting more experts within the private sector in order to successfully put their services online by 2005.

The World Internet Forum is the international summit taking place in London on 13-15 November, to help develop targets that can be realistically achieved by e-government. Government officials and representatives from the private sector will be attending the forum from over 71 countries.

To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.