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News alert issued by eGov monitor - Date: 17 November 2003


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* COUNCILS PLAY 'WAIT AND SEE' WITH EGOVERNMENT

- Latest snapshot of current state of local eGovernment

- Councils putting off eGov plans until national projects ready

- First emerging findings from this year's Government IEG3 exercise


The very-latest picture of how billions of pounds of government investment in technology are being put to use by councils in England has emerged today (Monday) from public sector research specialists eGov monitor.


Early analysis of detailed eGovernment progress reports submitted by every English local authority last Monday (10 November 2003) presents new insights and concrete evidence of the issues faced by local government IT managers today.


Before commiting to the ‘building-block’ technologies of eGovernment, many local government IT heads are playing a careful "wait and see" game. Major eGovernment investment decisions are being held off until they know the outcome of the various central government-driven pathfinder projects currently underway, which could perhaps offer cheaper, and more customised, solutions.


Moreover, a number of council IT departments are currently either indifferent, sceptical or simply have no demand at this stage for many of the technologies which have been aggressively marketed to them, by both government and industry, as key to the success of their online strategies. These include interactive digital television services, smartcard systems, e-democracy tools and Whitehall’s own flagship eGovernment project, the Government Gateway.


The initial findings are based on a sample of 100 Implementing Electronic Government (IEG3) Statements, representing over quarter of all returns from English local authorities, which councils had to submit to the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office by Monday, 10 November 2003. Detailed analysis covering all IEG3 Statements will be published in a forthcoming report by eGov monitor.


Other emerging findings and trends:


* PROGRESS TOWARDS EGOVERNMENT TARGETS


This year's IEG3 Statements show councils moving towards the Whitehall target of e-enabling all services by 2005, but with wide variations in individual performance. Some, like Macclesfield and Woking Borough Councils, are confident on their progress. Enfield Council also expects success, but warns that "early wins in e-service development are becoming difficult to repeat as significant investment in ICT infrastructure is required". Strikingly, some IEG3 Statements neglect to address the 2005 target question at all.


* DIGITAL TV


Progress with interactive digital television (IDTV) services in local government appears to be slow. Some councils regard it as a "key access channel", however other authorities are attributing, at present, less value to establishing services through digital TV. Rochford District Council notes that digital TV "has not been a priority access channel for development", while another reports that IDTV services do not, at this stage, "seem a likely possibility".



* E-DEMOCRACY


Despite great interest among councils in this area, there has been arguably little headway made with e-democracy tools. One City Council admits it "has no plans to develop e-democracy at this stage". Other authorities show more encouraging signs of activity, but are awaiting results from national projects before taking decisions.


* GOVERNMENT GATEWAY


Many councils have still not fully bought into central government visions. Analysis shows many authorities have reservations over the use of the Office of the e-Envoy’s Government Gateway, which is designed to enable citizens and businesses to interact securely with government online. One notes that "at present the authority has no plans to utilise the Gateway" whilst a borough council warns that the "lack of local government services on the 'gateway' is a concern". Many councils indicated an interest but are awaiting progress or information from central government. One London Borough notes that, although interested, it is "not in a position to join at this point".


* E-GOVERNMENT INTERMEDIARIES


One of the recent models of eGovernment to emerge is the concept of involving intermediary organisations in offering access to e-services. Most councils state they intend to engage intermediaries, but have yet to advance beyond the embryonic stages. Some however already offer concrete examples - one innovative district council is using the Post Office as an eGovernment intermediary and using funding to explore further possibilities.



* SMARTCARDS


The issue of smartcards has evoked a mixed response among local authorities, with some clearly displaying confidence with the technology. A number are forging ahead with developing single or multi-purpose systems or are in the process of conducting pilots. However overall, the common view is that smartcards only figure as a "longer term issue", as one council describes it. Elsewhere, a borough council states that it "has no plans at present to use smartcards" and remarks that "a national solution seems the most sensible approach to this technology".


* STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS


eGov monitor’s analysis has identified more than 100 strategic partnerships formed by councils to help deliver eGovernment. This collaboration represents the strength of commitment within local government to share learning, experiences and ensure the success of the eGovernment programme. These partnerships deliver significant benefits and are identified by many authorities as key to IEG success. Groups include the Cheshire and Warrington Information Consortium, the Berkshire eGovernment Partnership, North West e-Government Group, the Buckingham Accessible Services Partnership, the Lancashire e-Government Network, the Staffordshire eGovernment Partnership, the South Yorkshire E-Forum, the Access East Sussex Partnership, Kent Connects, the Oxfordshire IEG Partnership, the Herts IEG Action Group, Humber Area Web Partnership and the South East London e-Government Services partnership to name but a few.


* CRM - CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT


CRM is emerging as a prime area of joint-working across councils. eGov monitor found that many are progressing well in using CRM in e-delivery - Hull City Council claim their Hull Connect call centre CRM system is "a global reference site for Oracle". But central government-driven activity in this area is again leading some authorities to stall progress. One City Council remarks that they are "waiting for the roadmap to be delivered by the National Project".


* E-PROCUREMENT


This could prove to be another fertile area for joint-working with a number of e-procurement partnerships already being formed to help build economies of scale. E-auctions, another e-procurement model, is gaining a foothold in local government - one council using this model claimed savings 20 per cent on their paper contracts, and hopes to translate this experience to larger contracts. At the same time, another district council’s business case for e-procurement "identified very limited cash savings". Also with great pressure on councils to focus on the customer, back-office operations, which could deliver valuable efficiency savings, are at risk of being sidelined so that authorites can concentrate on projects with more visible customer benefits. One council comments that e-procurement is "generally deemed not a priority customer-centred development" for them, while the Greater London Authority make virtually no mention of activity in this area.


According to Joe Organ, Report author and Senior Analyst at eGov monitor: "As would be naturally expected with any complex, national change programme, across the country there will be a large variance along the scale of eGovernment sophistication. Our analysis possibly shows that for the UK at least, a one-size-fits-all 'blanket approach' to the task of implementing eGovernment at local level is distinctly unsuitable. However the case for an effective, centralised eGovernment monitoring and knowledge sharing facility, which the Government does not currently possess, has never been more compelling."


The full report - "Local eGovernment Opportunities: IEG3 Analysis" - providing detailed analysis of all IEG3 statements, including spending figures, will be published shortly by eGov monitor.


* NOTES TO EDITORS:


1. For further information contact Ian Cuddy or Babak Khakpour at eGov monitor on tel. 020 7384 1551 or email: ian.cuddy@egovmonitor.com.


2. Background to IEG


Since 2001, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has expected councils in England and Wales to produce annual statements summarising their progress in implementing electronic government. The IEG exercise as it is known is now in its third year and required councils needed to make their returns or 'IEG3 Statements' to the ODPM by Monday, 10 November 2003. In previous years, all councils submitting 'satisfactory' returns have received £200,000 of central government funding to support their eGovernment plans. Funding levels for this year have not yet been announced but are due later this year. For more info see: http://www.egovmonitor.com/links?ieginfo


3. eGov monitor is a specialist provider of market intelligence on public sector IT and electronic government, and produces eGov monitor Weekly, a free e-briefing published every Monday covering developments in the last seven days. Website: http://www.egovmonitor.com


ENDS


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