Government groups and technology suppliers are pessimistic about the potential use of online government services unless current strategy undergoes a rethink.
At a roundtable meeting to discuss take-up of UK government services, all due to be online by 2005, experts slammed efforts to date. Joined-up thinking was still not in evidence and a one-size-fits-all approach still prevalent, they argued.
Martin Cook, government sales manager at BBC Technology, said: "Many websites are boring and tedious, whereas the aim should be engagement."
Information, he added, should be tailored to meet the needs of all communities in society and provided on a variety of devices, not just the internet.
"We need 'communitisation'. Structure the information to engage the audience, whatever the audience tends to be. For instance, older people want it structured, kids want it jazzy."
Paul Duffin, head of the corporate applications unit within the National Probation Directorate, part of the Home Office, suggested that convenience, saving money and being provided with better information were the three most important motivators for using a website.
"The problem is not really technical," he said. "The real key is the actual application of [technical solutions]. Sometimes you need to change business processes."
Derek Estil, company secretary for the Beach Partnership, set up by Blackburn and Darwen unitary authority, complained that contradictory initiatives did not help.
The council had put computers in 2,500 households but a separate, massive house-building programme for East Lancashire failed to include internet connection infrastructure.
"Without joined-up thinking it is very hard," he said.
There was also little optimism about innovation. David Lynam of Lockheed Martin summed up the mood.
"If you don't want to change your organisation you won't have a joined-up structure. New technology plus old business processes equals very expensive new technology," he said.
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