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Brits unimpressed by e-Gov

Cost billions, but totally invisible

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Billions of pounds have been invested, but no one has noticed. That is the stark conclusion drawn from a recent survey of British public awareness of e-Government. It found that 73 per cent of the population was oblivious to any change in government services as a result of the huge investment.

The survey, conducted by Transversal, an eservice software provider, also found that by and large, people prefer to phone their local council, rather than emailing or checking on the Web. Although almost 60 per cent of those questioned said the phone was their preferred communication medium, 88 percent said that if the council website could respond quickly and accurately, they would far rather deal with the government online.

Transversal argues that one clear mistake local authorities make, is putting up static FAQ pages. These are not flexible enough, nor do they give the authorities any insight into what people actually want, and what their concerns are. This in turn, increases reliance on government call centres, widely criticised for being slow and unresponsive, Transversal says.

Obviously, Transversal has a vested interest in saying all this. Unsurprisingly, it supplies the kind of software it thinks can fix the problems highlighted.

But the survey is interesting anyway: although it makes sense to make information available online, the fact that most people still prefer to phone their local councils with questions is telling.

When you have questions you want answered, the bald, official response doesn't always give you all the information you are after, a phenomenon we are certainly familiar with here at Vulture Central. Being able to interrogate a person is distinctly more satisfying than reading a page full of FAQs, after all.

Gerard Buckley, CEO of Transversal, goes on to say that if the government is really serious about e-Government, it must go back to the fundamentals: making sure the public has easy access to information, and that they can ask questions and get answers quickly, online.

"While significant public funds have been ploughed in to content management and CRM systems, there are few public sector websites that allow us to ask a question and receive an intelligent answer in return. The public clearly hasn't noticed any improvement in public sector websites," he said. ®

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