Idling away and wondering how to lauch myself on the world of ‘tweats’ I Googled ‘twitter’ and ‘e-government’ and found the following e-pamphlet: “New Labour’s Digital Vision: A Survey of E-government in the UK since 1997”, I then backtabbed and found the site – http://www.knowledgepolitics.org.uk – and the interesting group of researchers e-huddled within.
The content of this very piece was the stimulus for PhD, this second time around anyway! It was having spent so many years trying to fulfill the Whitehall dream and then seeing it for the puff of smoke it was, I felt the need to analyse.
In my opinion this paper, like so many others about UK e-government, might have benefitted from:
- some input from practitioners – most of the references are to the media or government documents
- a review of the academic literature – there has been some good research including that by McLoughin & Cornford and Cornford & Richter (see references below).
- taking a look further back – e-government was actually started by the Conservatives, Nu-Labour picked it up taking along the New Public Management baggage, which was probably the downfall of e-government
- looking at the bureaucracy – there was little central control, which was actually needed, and a lot of money wasted as a result. The Ministerial control was continually in flux – the Labour brains behind e-government, Liam Byrne, never had power in that arena.
In addition, one thing that seem to be missed was pointing any fingers at Tony Blair. It was his continued raising of the bar that set the ridiculous target (100% services by 2005), presumably to outdo colleagues abroad. Fortunately, other governments were better advised and maintained some rational restraint. The paper almost admits that we never met the targets and accepts that “the reality never met the rhetoric”, however it can’t see the wood for the trees and that essentially e-government is all about using ICT to facilitate improved services to the citizens, which will only be done by improved processes, and much of what has occurred in the past ten years has obfusticated processes and frequently changed them making improvements difficult.
The author is right to criticise it as a failed experiment, but is wrong to use decentralization as a cure. Part of the problem is too much autonomy at Whitehall, whilst continually bullying local government from the CLG/ODPM/DTLR/DETR/DoE. Central government want to get the mote out of its own eye to employ a biblical metaphor.
Incidemtally, if you are “twitterpating” I can be found at http://www.twitter.com/greatemancipato
McLoughlin, I., Cornford, J., (2006). “Transformational change in the local state? Enacting e-government in English local authorities.” Journal of Management & Organization, 12(3): 195 – 208.
Cornford, J., Richter, P., (2007). “Customer Focus in UK e-Government: Or, Putting the Politics back into e-Government.” International Journal of Business Science and Applied Management 2(1): 34 – 46.