A report by technology consultant Gartner Group says that efforts to implement online services by go...
A report by technology consultant Gartner Group says that efforts to implement online services by government departments is doomed to failure unless steps are taken to control costs and extract the additional value made possible by new technology.
The main cost benefit of information technology is that it enables organisation to do more with fewer people, but governments cannot fire staff, leaving wage bills relatively unchanged even as technology acquisition costs increase.
And poor implementation of technology projects often leaves customers looking to traditional face-to-face meetings to sort out issues when the web fails.
"In countries like the US, there has been an overemphasis on investment in e-government and an underemphasis on improving the basic processes of government," Gartner says.
"Unless the rigidly bureaucratic information silos between ministries and departments are broken down, e-citizen portals won't offer compelling convenience."
Gartner's research is focused on Asian countries looking to emulate Singapore, where e-government has been successfully implemented.
However, Gartner points out that that country spent the equivalent of $700m alone on feedback channels and other methods of ensuring that electronic services met expectations.
The UK government has been repeatedly criticised by the National Audit Office – the government's own spending watchdog - over its controls on IT spending.
Implementation fiascos involving individual departments and agencies, such as the Passport Office, and, more recently the Inland Revenue and tax credits have contributed to a generally poor perception of e-government in the UK.
Gartner's findings lend weight to the internal survey published by the DWP this summer, which found that most people still preferred to use the telephone or face-to-face meetings to solve more complex issues.
That internal research also found that respondents did think the internet had a role to play, but only to complement and not replace traditional routes of communication. This again leads back to Gartner's point that costs cannot be cut easily despite the use of technology. ,/p>
More seriously, continued failure to get services related to pensions online could derail plans to bring about reliable composite statements and cut costs in an industry that already faces more price caps through simplified products.
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