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Take Up or Talk Down?

I am a little confused by the report that the Office of The e-Envoy (OeE) is to create ‘another’ single access point for Online services.

When I was first involved in the OeE when there were fourteen people crammed into 70 Whitehall, the revolution was to be driven by a single portal, you know, the one that they spend millions advertising on the sides of taxis, ‘UK Offline’. Now however, the eGov monitor reports “The Online Government Store will bring together the various e-services scattered across department websites into a central hub or 'one-stop shop, where citizens could pay their income tax, buy a TV licence or apply for a passport”.



Not so long ago, one of my friends in Government commented:

“In the UK, as in most other countries, less than 1% of the population use government websites on a regular basis. It is hard to move from offering a "service online" to witnessing a "service used" For the most part, people are not even trying to find services online in many cases. That for me, means we've failed the neighbour test, meaning that until the service is so good that your neighbour will lean over and tell you what they found using a government website, high usage will remain elusive”

It seems then that any decision to find a second ‘universal’ portal has something to do with driving take-up, which is still mediocre even after the London taxi campaign. Britain is not alone in struggling to encourage acceptance of on-line Government. When I spoke with Detlef Eckert, now with Microsoft, who was responsible for the information society initiative within the European Commission, he remarked, that if over half the population of Europe have not attempted to access a government service over the Internet, we need to understand the many complex reasons behind the problem.

So, at more taxpayer’s expense, Government is trying once again, with yet another Website, with another memorable name, The Online Government Store, when we already have the UK Online citizen portal and the UK’s flagship IT project, the Government Gateway, both of which have been eGovernment services.

Is this a great idea which should be recognised for its value in driving acceptance of online government among the population or yet another example of public money being wasted in a desperate attempt at self-justification? You decide.

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