The government announced its Digital Strategy earlier this week on Tuesday, where it has claimed that making all public sector services fully ‘digital by default’ could save GBP 1.7 to 1.8 billion.
The strategy has come under much criticism since then. For instance, UKAuthority.com has written about how realistic the 1.8 billion figure is: “The precedents are not good. The history of e-government is littered with examples of optimistic predictions of savings that were never realised, typically because digital channels failed to reach critical mass, led to higher costs elsewhere in the system, or simply because managers lacked the will to translate efficiency gains into cash savings.”
According to an article on Thinkbroadband, the savings should not be the focus of the strategy, rather the aim should be to improve the quality of services delivered to the public. Furthermore, in order for the strategy to succeed, broadband must be rolled out quickly throughout the country.
Michael Cross, writing for the Law Gazette, points out that the savings figure does not include the cost of installing new systems and that there could be legislative and practical problems. He also alludes to the past: “Digital government has been tried before. The Labour administration set out in 2000 to ‘e-enable’ every single government process… it more or less met the target, but by setting up thousands of costly and cumbersome websites that few bothered to use. The new strategy is seeking to avoid past disasters, for example by insisting on off-the-shelf software rather than gold-plated custom designed systems.”
While critics are looking at the strategy, particularly Universal Credit, which moves the entire benefit system online, with a pinch of salt, it will be some time before its success can truly be assessed.
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