David Wilcox posted this message to the IACN mailing list on November 18 1996. See also Gareth Morgan's article The Technology of Advice.
Apologies for a rather long posting - and any duplication - but I think this could be a really good opportunity for UK community networkers to discuss the future with government……..maybe through a conferencing system?*
The UK Government's desire to cut the cost to taxpayers of information services and improve direct communication with citizens could lead to a big increase in public access to the Internet over the next ten years. This in turn could be good news for community networking - but depends very much how systems are implemented.\ \ That, anyway, is my reading of the recent Green Paper 'Government Direct: A Prospectus for the Electronic Delivery of Government Services'. (http://www.open.gov.uk/citu/gdirect/ind1)\ \ The Green paper hasn't received much media attention, but is essential reading (download the Word 6 file for speed - the html version is graphics-heavy).\ \ It sets out ' a prospectus - a strategy - for a new way of delivering central government services across the United Kingdom. These services include providing information, collecting taxes, granting licences, administering regulations, paying grants and benefits, collecting and analysing statistics, and procuring goods and services'.\ \ The strategy also includes Government to agency and local government communication, and Government to citizen email.\ \ 'The strategy should aim to make electronic delivery of services the preferred option for the majority of government's customers (both citizens and businesses). However it is likely that there will always be people who are either not willing or not able to use such services. These groups should retain the option of a traditional face-to-face, telephone or paper-based service'.\ \ The three purposes of the strategy are to\ - provide better and more efficient services to business and citizens\ - improve the efficiency and openness of government administration\ - secure substantial cost savings for taxpayers\ \ My understanding is that the government view is current forms of paper and face-to-face services won't be affordable in 10 years - there's thought to be little choice but to get people online. In addition, I suspect, politicians would not be averse to systems which allowed them a channel for communication to citizens which bypassed the editorial filter of the usual mass media.\ \ The systems proposed in the Green Paper are a mix of public touch-screen terminals, personal computers in home or office, and the new 'set top boxes' linking cable, satellite or phone to the TV set.\ \ 'The terminal in the home or in the place of work could, in due course, provide an electronic 'one-stop-shop' for government services, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week where appropriate, and offering as near to instant response as practicable'.\ \ The systems proposed will be piloted, and the Green paper makes it clear that under the current Government they would be installed by the private sector under competitive tendering procedures.\ \ 'Money to pay the contractors would come from part of the savings in the cost of government administration (the balance going to the taxpayers)'.\ \ 'Some of the pilots will build on activities already being undertaken by government departments. Many will involve the private or voluntary sector or both, and all will support the Government's Information Society Initiative'.\ \ On domestic use of TV, the Green paper says: 'It is likely that the new television sets which will receive digital television programmes (whether digital satellite or digital terrestrial television) will also have the ability to access online services, either using a set top box or an integrated unit. Information will be received via the digital television channel and information can be sent back using a television line. All of these systems could be used to access government services'.\ \ The Green Paper poses a series of questions, including 'How might electronic service delivery be arranged to bring the greatest benefits to the citizen?' and invites responses by post, or email to email@example.com.\ \ This is a great opportunity for those who want to promote electronic democracy and community use of the medium to put their views to government, and to raise questions about the new systems will operate. Will they be big pipes down, small pipes back - keypads for responses, not keyboards? Or could they really provide lift off for community networking in the UK?\ \ Unfortunately there is no conferencing system on the open.gov server allowing those responding to see each others comments.\ \ *Is this is good topic for the excellent UK Citizens Online Democracy system (http://www.mysocirty.org) to mount an online discussion forum?\ \ Regards\ David\ \ Back to the Guide to Community Internet\