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Government preps one-stop hub for e-services

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The e-Envoy is due to announce a major new eGovernment venture that will create a single access point for online services, writes Ian Cuddy, of eGov monitor Weekly.

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. It is hoped that the project will make e-services more accessible to citizens and in doing so, help to boost the present low levels of public take-up. Following months of discussions with Whitehall departments and local government bodies, the e-Envoy's Office is now almost ready to make public details of the Online Government Store.

The decision to create a new brand identity for the service will raise fresh speculation over the future direction of the e-Envoy's existing eGovernment
hub projects, the UK Online citizen portal and its flagship IT project, the Government Gateway, which have both been designed to provide common access points for online services across government.

Outlining the concept of the Online Government Store, Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service, described the project so: "This is the idea that if you are a student, elderly person, a traveller or motorist, you can come into electronic space and there is something that says 'All the services we offer to you, irrespective of the department that they are offered by, can be found in that space'."

The e-Envoy's Office told eGov monitor Weekly it could not provide any further details of the project at this stage, as matters have yet to be cleared by ministers, but said that the UK Online portal was not going to be replaced. The Department of Trade and Industry has also disclosed that it will be working in close collaboration with the OeE on the Online Government Store project, as part of plans to enable its e-services to be delivered in a way that would allow its customers "to find the information and services
they need more quickly and easily".

The move comes as the OeE launches a three-month consultation on proposals allowing the private and voluntary sectors to assume the role of an
intermediary between government and citizen in delivering online public services. The draft framework outlines the "policies and principles" governing the rights and obligations of intermediaries and plans for a new, high-level working group with a remit to "actively drive the intermediary agenda in departments".

The aim is the creation of a "mixed economy" for the supply of public services, which in three years' time will be developed to the point where citizens and businesses can "engage intermediaries from the public, private and voluntary sectors to use public services in the manner that suits them."

In a separate but related development, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is investigating the potential use of UK Online centres to offer access to online government services. Results of a survey in April 2002, made public earlier this year by the National Audit Office, found that just five per cent of UK Online centres showed government e-services to all customers, a quarter to "quite a few", a half "rarely", and the remaining 20 per cent not at all.

The DfES is attempting to find centres that have pro-actively taken on the responsibility of providing access to eGovernment, in order to discuss "successful practices, obstacles and barriers encountered, capacity building requirements and sustainable business plans".

© eGov monitor Weekly

Sources:

Andrew Turnbull quote on the OGS
DTI on the OGS
OeE announcement on intermediaries
NAO report quoted above
DfES Investigation into UK Online centres

eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.

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