The UK government last week set itself the target of delivering all its services electronically by 2008 as it launched its first ever "corporate IT strategy".
The goal - an escalation of its previous commitment to deliver a quarter of all services electronically by 2002 - is the centre-piece of the long awaited Modernising Government White Paper, published last week after a year of waiting. The white paper aims to transform the quality of public service.
"The key driver in (delivering better services to the public) is IT," commented Peter Kilfoyle, junior minister at the Cabinet Office.
The government will also create a high-level liaison committee of civil servants, local government executives, other businesses and possibly IT companies, aiming to stimulate cross departmental service initiatives and giving IT firms an inside track on government thinking.
It will also set up groups to set broad technical standards across government in key technology areas, including smartcards, digital signatures, Web portals and call centres.
These standards will undoubtedly be highly influential across the entire industry, given that government is such an important user of technology.
As an example, it is expected to insist that the public use "licensed" digital signatures in their dealings with government. It will set minimum criteria for third parties, such as banks, to run digital signature authentication services, thereby proving the identity of the signature.
The licensing of digital signatures, making them unambiguously legal, is a key feature of the separate electronic commerce bill due after Easter.
A new centre for management and policy studies will be set up in the Cabinet Office, with a general remit to improve civil service management - including, it is expected, in areas of IT procurement and project management.
The government will insist on regular public progress reports from its departments in their efforts at developing electronic services. The first progress report is due to be published in May.
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