Civil servants are hoping for a miracle to help them get all government services online by end of 2005, according to a director of the e-Envoy's office.
Dr Steve Marsh, director of security at the Office of the e-Envoy, warned: "Government departments are planning a miracle for the fourth quarter of 2005 - the implementation graph has a very interesting shape towards the end."
This "miracle" has already had a little assistance with the government's shifting of the deadline from March 2005 to the end of that year.
But if the the revised deadline cannot be met, "We would prefer important services to be online with high take-up, rather than everything online and no one using it," Marsh said.
Speaking at a conference organised by the London Internet Exchange (Linx), Marsh said there were three main fears for the government's online plans.
"That it wasn't going to deliver them at all; that they'd be delivered and nobody will use them; or that they'd deliver the services and find them too expensive to sustain," he said.
Marsh acknowledged the first risk was a real threat because most government departments had not yet tackled the difficult elements of delivering e-services.
Although 70 per cent of government services are already online, and there are more than 1,800 websites existing in the gov.uk domain, most of these just provide information.
"So far we've taken low-hanging fruit - in some cases so low you can trip over it," Marsh said. "As we get into transactions and the way services impact people it gets harder."
Take-up by the public is also a serious problem. "It looks like the use of online government services is going down, as online buying goes up," said Marsh.
Another concern is security. "UK consumers trust the government less than anyone, other than a foreign company," said Marsh. "People don't trust the internet and they trust the government even less."
Marsh added he was concerned that those who most needed access to government services - like people with health problems and those on benefit - are those with least access to the internet.
He also acknowledged that the relative lack of take-up of public key infrastructure (PKI) technologies and digital signatures was also a problem.
"It just hasn't grown in the way that four to five years ago we thought it would," he said. But PKI would still have a role to play, he added.
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