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e-gov head calls for Transformation Meditation

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The head of e-government Ian Watmore has, in defiance of his own job title, called time on e-government, and asked local authority IT managers to get ready for t-government instead.

The t, for those of you who can bear it, stands for "transformation", which Watmore says will be at the heart of the government's new vision and strategy for technology in government to be published in the next couple of weeks.

Speaking in Brighton today at the annual conference of SOCITM, the Society of Information Technology Managers, Watmore said that e-government is a means to an end, but that now he intends to focus on the end itself. He sees the transformation of frontline government services is that end, and noted that almost all - up to 80 per cent - of this frontline is in local government.

Ahead of publishing the new strategy document, Watmore says that at its core are three things: putting the customer (that'll be Joe Public) at the centre of government services, shared services and professionalism.

Putting the citizen first means doing things like linking the profiles of prisoners set for release to the public services that should provide support for them in their rehabilitation.

"Things like NHS Direct are good, but is only on the margins of what is possible from the NHS," Watmore said. "I want to have access to the doctor for diagnosis, and I want the doctor to have access to the latest information about me through the electronic patient record. I want the same to be true for teachers and police. I want the best information inthe hands of the frontline public servants."

To do this, he acknowledged, central government will have to learn from local government, and all parts of government will have to get better at working together.

He called on local authorities to get behind the shared services agenda in large groups to help meet the efficiency targets outlined in the Gershon review.

He said that the goal must be to find the middle ground between 1,300 bits of government, all unique, all individual, doing their own thing, and a central government "one-size fits all" approach, which "invariably ends up being one-size-fits none" he added.

Lastly, Watmore wants IT management to address the question of professionalism.

This is essential, he says, if local government is to present itself as an attractive career option to young graduates. He argues that IT management is really seen as a role, or a job, rather than an interesting career that can challenge and reward over a period of time.

But he adds that central government has a lot to learn from local government in this respect, referring to professionalism in dealing with suppliers. He says supplier relationships are often poorly managed, lurching from one extreme of openness and collaboration to another of very tough contracts no one could actually deliver. Here, he says, is another place where local authorities must seek the middle ground. ®

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