e-Governance: one country’s strategy

How the British government aims to put the citizen online

The volume of e-commerce expenditure in the United Kingdom grew by 350% in the last year. Clearly, despite current tales of woe on the back of the NASDAQ’s slide, this is not just a dot com fad, but a revolution bringing with it fundamental changes. Businesses, individuals and government alike are all affected by it.

In September 2000 the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, launched UK online, a drive to make this country one of the world’s leading knowledge economies and ensuring that everyone in the UK who wants it will have access to the Internet.

The UK government knows what it wants. Indeed, my role as Director of e-Communications in the Office of the e-Envoy, part of the Cabinet Office, reflects this determination very well. In short, we are leading the drive to make the United Kingdom one of the world’s leading knowledge economies. And governments do have a crucial role to play. By this I don’t mean any old fashioned notions of state intervention, but a role complementing that of the market and responding to the expectations of our consumers – our citizens.

The key words are access, skills, and the confidence to use the Internet. We estimate that the market will provide some 60-70% of the population with home Internet access by 2003. This leaves a significant minority who could be left out of the Internet revolution. This digital divide could exacerbate problems of social exclusion. That is why we aim to achieve universal Internet access by 2005.

To this end we have launched initiatives to promote access at home, at work and in the community. We are establishing a network of almost 6,000 UK online centres which will allow people to access the Internet and familiarise themselves with basic ICT.

Governments must also provide the right market framework to allow e-commerce to thrive. For us this means taking a new look at our regulatory and legislative framework to remove all barriers to e-commerce. We have pledged to make the United Kingdom the best place in the world to trade electronically by 2002.

We are also targeting support at businesses to help the United Kingdom develop a vibrant, competitive business community using e-commerce to its fullest potential. The Department of Trade and Industry’s UK online for business campaign will be deepening the support and advice offered to small business. This £25 million campaign will focus on ensuring that the benefits of e-commerce are understood by all firms.

The development of the Internet has led consumers to demand a lot more of service providers. In an age where someone can carry out banking transactions online 24 hours a day, people are a lot less willing to put up with bureaucratic delays from government.

Our goal is to have all government services accessible online by 2005 at the latest. We have already made some good progress on this. In fact, some 33% of government services are already online. You can access health advice, submit your income tax self-assessment, and access Foreign Office advice for travelling abroad. By 2002, some 70% of services will be online, including VAT registration and the direct booking of hospital appointments by general medical practitioners. And by 2005 all services will be online, including claiming benefits, applying for a passport and accessing patient health records. We aim to achieve this target as quickly as we can, but some areas require substantial investment before going online.

We are also working to ensure that government services evolve into a form which is much more citizen-driven. A good analogy to illustrate this point is an anteater contemplating its next meal. The anteater does not see hundreds and thousands of individual ants when it approaches an anthill. Instead it sees a mass of ants, waiting to be hoovered up.

Right now, the public tends to view the government in the same way. They don’t see the individual departments providing services. Instead they see one mass which they call “Government”. We must recognise this and respond by presenting services to the public in ways which are meaningful to them. In other words, those closest to the web site’s target audience should decide the content.

At present our services are organised and delivered in Departmental Silos. This means that for a life event people have to deal with a number of agencies separately.

For example, if someone loses their job, they have to deal separately with the employment agency, the social security department, the Inland Revenue, and probably their local authority.

This kind of bureaucracy is increasingly unacceptable. People shouldn’t have to know who does what. The work we are engaged in right now is joining up public services. The new UK online Citizen Portal at www.ukonline.gov.uk will be organised around specific life events such as moving house. This will mean that people will provide us with the information once and it will then be passed on to the relevant agencies.

In fact, the point of access for the citizen need not necessarily be a government portal or website. Certainly, we will enable people who want to access government services directly to do so. But for many activities what people really want is a mixture of private and public sector services and the government gateway will allow this.

If someone is moving home, they may want access to government or local authority databases on land titles and planning restrictions, but they need to deal with private sector real estate agents and lawyers. We plan to license access to the government gateway so that private sector firms can offer the mix of services that people want. These changes are for now, but the Internet has evolved rapidly in the last few years. We must be ready to think strategically about where we want to be in the future. New technologies will continue to develop at a rapid pace. We must be ready and willing to respond to them.

©OECD Observer No 224, January 2001




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • COP21 Will Get Agreement With Teeth: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría on Bloomberg

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.

  • Climate change: “We should not disagree when scientists tell us we have a window of opportunity–10-15 years–to turn this thing around” argues Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • In the long-run, the EU benefits from migration, says OECD Head of International Migration Division Jean-Christophe Dumont.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Unemployment
Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016