The government is claiming that it remains on course to meet its e-agenda, following the publication of the second annual report of UK Online. But doubts remain over the value of online services being delivered.
"We have made real progress on all fronts," said Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Successes included the setting up of over 2,000 UK online centres offering low-cost internet access, and beating the target for getting 1.6 million small businesses online, she added.
This figure represents the number of businesses that have a website or use external email, and is not a measurement of the number of British firms carrying out transactions over the internet.
While there had been significant progress in developing the e-government strategy, there were still areas that required additional work, said Andrew Pinder, e-Envoy.
"The take-up of digital certificates has been disappointing. They are an important method of ensuring that online transactions are secure. We are looking at ways to make it easier and cheaper to obtain certificates, and are optimistic that this will encourage their use," he said.
Pinder predicted that by this time next year three quarters of government departments would be online. But some question whether people would use the services.
"The content has to be attractive to the public. There needs to be greater integration between different government departments, to provide a real sense of 'joined-up government'," said Ken D' Rosario, public sector business development manager at consultants AeBS.
The Treasury-led public sector procurement initiative was a good example of how different government departments could work together, said Pinder. The initiative is looking at how electronic procurement can be aggregated across a number of departments to ensure the maximum cost savings.
Pinder also said that the development of the Government Gateway would help drive up the number of transactions being carried out.
"There has been significant demand from departments and agencies wanting to connect to the Gateway. We are impatient to increase the number of transactions being carried out," he said.
The e-Envoy also showed a softening in his approach to access through digital television. Having previously claimed that it would be the primary method of accessing the internet, Pinder appeared to backtrack.
"Digital TV has a major part to play, but it will complement other devices, including PCs and 3G phones," he said today.
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