New U.K. e-gov head has his work cut out

The U.K. government has appointed the U.K. managing director of Accenture Ltd. as its first Head of e-Government, a role replacing and greatly expanding upon the office of e-Envoy, as the government faces mounting disillusionment with how it has handled online government services and public sector ICT projects. Ian Watmore’s appointment in the role — which is modelled on that of an enterprise CIO — coincides with an attempt by the government to change gears in how it is implementing e-government.

Andrew Pinder, the outgoing e-Envoy, recently overhauled the old online government gateway site, UK Online, replacing it with a service called Directgov that is designed to bring all e-government services together in one place. While Pinder was responsible for getting the U.K. online, Watmore’s office — the e-Government Unit, replacing the Office of the e-Envoy — will be responsible for setting up online government services and monitoring the government’s use of IT, according to minister for the Cabinet Office Douglas Alexander, to whom Watmore will report. The Office of the e-Envoy will begin its transition this month and Watmore will take up his role in September. Alexander pointed out that 71 per cent of government services are already available online, a significant step towards the government’s goal of getting all services online by next year. But industry analysts say this target-oriented approach was misconceived to begin with, as it doesn’t necessarily enable services that citizens and businesses actually want.

Canada, which topped the Accenture survey, carries out relentless focus group testing and user polling for its e-government program, an approach not often seen elsewhere.

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