By 1999 UK citizens will access government services that affect their daily life directly through electronic networks, according to a report from London-based public sector research specialist Kable Ltd. Job seekers will use self-service job centres via network computer systems and the UK tax office will offer a 24-hour helpline operated by teleworkers linked to […]
By 1999 UK citizens will access government services that affect their daily life directly through electronic networks, according to a report from London-based public sector research specialist Kable Ltd. Job seekers will use self-service job centres via network computer systems and the UK tax office will offer a 24-hour helpline operated by teleworkers linked to expert systems via high speed Integrated Services Digital Network lines. These were some of the scenarios in Kable’s Wired Whitehall 1999 report, published last week, in which Kable took the results of more than 50 interviews with a range of people, both inside and outside the civil service, involved with public sector information systems, and came up with a fictional report, postulating how government systems will have developed by the end of the century. Over the next five years the Civil Service will take advantage of information technology to cut the cost of service provision, replicating many of the changes introduced by banking and finance companies over the last decade, says Kable. The report believes that by 1999 UK citizens will have access via electronic networks to the government departments affecting their daily lives using a unique ‘cradle to the grave’ identification number issued by the UK’s National Health Service; national identity cards will be in place; a national public sector computer strategy will have emerged, although this will be only a set of technical guidelines, rather than an all-encompassing information strategy; the government will be paying most benefits directly into claimants’ bank accounts or as Smart Card credits which will cut the cost of administering payments by more than 80%; and that it will be working on the development of a Single Citizen’s Account by 2004. A new generation of middleware, says the report, will have made obsolete the old obsession with ‘open systems’ and by 1999, standards will be safe in the hands of the market, although it reckons there will still be a need for a central government body, not unlike the by-then obsolete Central Computer & Telecommunications Agency, to identify and evaluate impartially new technologies. Kevin McNamara MP, shadow Minister for the Civil Service, welcomed the report but pointed out that there was a conflict between privacy and the free exchange of information. He added that before the population could use the increased electronic access to government services, a monumental education programme would need to be undertaken. Copies of the report, which was sponsored by British Telecommunications Plc and accountants Ernst & Young, are available from Kable.