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We know how the Govt meets its cybertargets

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Yesterday it was widely reported by the UK media that the government had not only met its targets for e-government but had actually surpassed them. Forty per cent of government services were now online, we were told and one in five adults (with Internet access) use the Net to access government services.

We loudly declared this to be a load of hogwash - and besides, we don't remember being told any targets in the first place. Certainly the stats will be backed up somehow, but stats and reality never seem to meet.

Well, thanks to two readers in the know, we can explain how this amazing massaging is achieved. We were right to be suspicious of the term "government services". This would imply things like tax forms, publications, social security - that sort of thing. The error with this is that we are presuming the government only serves the public. As well you know, most of the work the government does is for itself, so when we're talking "government services" only a small percentage of that will actually affect you and me.

However, we missed a trick. The Cabinet Office minister said that 40 per cent of these services were online. Note that he did not say they were on the Internet. No, they are "online". And here comes some wonderful Whitehall classification. Telephone systems, for example, are an "online medium", as are a wide array of other "services" that beggar belief. And so combine the services aspect with the online aspect and you come up with a figure of 40 per cent. And all the while, we're wondering why government Web sites are a load of shite.

As for the one-in-five claim, well that was for government "services" (that term again) and "information". We are not informed how the Office of National Statistics came up with its figure, but is it inconceivable that it simply asked a lot of civil servants? They, of course, would always be using the online services to find government information - every hour of the day in fact.

Britain - leading the way with Internet misinformation. ®

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