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Microsoft canvasses opinion on eGov services

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Almost one person in 10 thinks council services available online are "old fashioned" and "inefficient", according to a new survey. The latter we've no particular quibble with, but surely online services can't already be "old fashioned"?

This statistic is just one of many that will surely follow as we head into the August silly season, the time of year when news dries up because Parliament closes, and technology companies traditionally like to publish myriad surveys.

It comes from Microsoft's public sector department who asked, via the pollsters at MORI, 1,000 people what they thought of the services their council had made available online.

The headline stat for them is that 37 per cent of citizens rate online services as "efficient" and "modern", on a par with the private sector. Combined with the seven per cent who think online is sooo yesterday, this means 44 per cent of us either love or hate interacting with our local authorities through the wibbly wobbly web.

But 64 per cent of those surveyed said they'd never used online council services, suggesting that some people (eight per cent) are a little confused.

More must be done to educate users, Microsoft says, to make them aware of the services that are available to them. And as 39 per cent of those surveyed said they rarely had access to the internet, something also has to be done to sort out the old digital divide.

It is certainly true that while many councils have got their acts together in terms of providing access, citizen take up is still relatively low.

"Improving take is the next big challenge," says Paul Bettison, e-government champion at the Local Government Association.

There is huge potential for working smarter and raising awareness of what's available, he says: "We need to continue to encourage people to use the services on offer and get some real momentum going among local citizens."

Microsoft UK public sector boss Terry Smith said increasing access to, and use of online public services would go "a long way to help transform the public sector to provide modern and efficient services to the community".

Businesses and public sector must work together to make this happen, he added, both in terms of technology provision, but also by increasing Joe Public's level of knowledge about such things. ®

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