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Government must pull its socks up to get online in time

House of Commons says it should focus bringing the most popular services to the web

The House of Commons Select Committee today warned the government it needed to pull its socks up if it intended to reach its target of getting all services online by 2005.

The Committee's report says the government needs to focus on getting high-demand facilities like post office services and Citizens Advice Bureaux functioning properly online.

"Very few services which most citizens routinely use can be fully accessed online, such as applying for a driving licence, which is processed electronically and then received by post," said the report.

"Departments need to concentrate their efforts on identifying and making fully available online those services which citizens are most likely to find useful," it added.

Many of the government sites viewed by the Committee were poorly set up and amounted to little more than a web page.

The report says more market research is needed to address which services the government should focus on bringing online.

But there was a warning in the report not to exclude the elderly, many of whom cannot use IT equipment. It highlighted the need for the government to talk to these groups to find out exactly what they expected and indeed what gaps existed in their own technological knowledge.

E-voting is an example of this. Voter turnout was not improved where e-voting schemes were piloted, with many people put off by the idea of voting online.

The government is currently holding a public consultation into e-voting.

The Treasury also criticised the government's optimistic estimates about its online targets, when it awarded prizes to the best government websites.

The report seems clear in its opinion that the 2005 target is unlikely to be achieved. Instead, it says, the government would do better concentrating on those services the public wanted to be brought online.


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