Seven local authorities have been awarded Beacon status for their IT developments.
The award scheme has been run for the past four years, but this year's included the category of 'improving social inclusion through ICT', and seven authorities were awarded Beacon status.
Rod Matthews, head of information society technology at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, said: "This is the first time Beacon status has been given for IT strategies and proves its growing importance."
The seven IT frontrunners were Cambridgeshire County Council, Derwentside District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Liverpool City Council and Sunderland City Council.
The criteria for achieving Beacon status included:
- Achieving wider participation in online services
- Increasing local ICT skills and support levels
- Growing the number of new users of online services
- Providing sustainable and flexible provisions driven by customers
- Expanding the community's involvement in ICT activities and online services.
As award winners the councils will receive a small amount of additional funds, but it is "more about recognition", according to Matthews.
"It shows that the government knows and has seen what we are doing," he said.
The IT Beacons will work with the Improvement and Development Agency to share their knowledge and experience at events to be held in summer 2004.
Matthews explained that the Beacon scheme would help local authorities model their e-government developments. "We are committed to helping others learn, and to learning more from others," he said.
Local government minister Nick Raynsford described the awards as illustrating best practice for local government services.
"The Beacons selected are great examples of how good services can make a real difference to people's lives," he said, adding that the awards are important in supporting other authorities in achieving equally high levels.
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