The government's national strategy for e-government, launched last week, has received a mixed response from local authorities.
The document outlines the issues local authorities should consider when formulating their e-service strategy. It includes a checklist of questions they should ask their organisation, and details of the national framework that has been created to support them.
Speaking at the launch, local government minister Christopher Leslie said e-government was central to plans to modernise public services.
"People expect a great deal from their council and those expectations are rising. To meet them, councils have to seek and consider more effective ways to deliver customer-focused services and lead their communities. Public services need to be more accessible, more convenient, more responsive and more cost-effective," Leslie said.
But one local authority head of IT, who wished to remain anonymous, said colleagues in the sector have criticised the strategy paper as patronising.
Although £675m of funding to support development of e-services and to fund pathfinder schemes around the country was announced in July, the strategy document offers too little detail on how funding will be apportioned.
He said the document is too focused on policy and displays little enthusiasm for IT, despite recognition at the highest level that technology will be key to underpinning the new e-services on offer.
Last month Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged the UK's poor record on delivering e-government, telling a summit in London that "too many services live in the technological dark ages".
Trade body Intellect welcomed the strategy paper, but described the 2005 deadline as a red herring. Nick Kalisperas, e-government programme manager, told vnunet.com that the focus needed to be on creating online services that people wanted to use.
"The devil will be in the implementation and making sure enough is done to encourage partnerships," he said.
Kalisperas admitted that public sector IT directors were under pressure to hit the 2005 deadline. "It's easy to get hung up on 2005 but while it's a way to focus minds it should not be seen as the be all and end all of e-government."
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is responsible for coordinating local government strategy, has also launched a new website to help local government transform the services they provide.
Designed and supported by IT services company Capita, www.localegov.gov.uk offers guidance on best practice, discussion forums and practical tools.
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