throws down virtual gauntlet
Times / 10 December 99 / Carlos Grande
Whitehall is urged to follow business
lead in embracing the Internet, writes Carlos Grande.
Alex Allan, the government-appointed e-envoy, yesterday vowed
to prevent Whitehall inertia stifling plans to increase the
role of the Internet across ministerial departments.
Mr Allan, a former Treasury civil
servant, called for the public sector to encourage individual
initiative in delivering public services via the Internet.
In his first speech to businesses,
he said: "Government is going to have to behave more
like the innovatory businesses on the Internet in recognising
the role of individual initiative. It has not been very good
at this in the past. Departments
have tended to be too conservative with a small 'c'. We know
big, stuffy organisations are facing the challenge of the
Internet. Government departments (must) be more rapid moving.
"Mr Allan said he would use the
new post of e-envoy, based in the Cabinet Office and reporting
directly to the Prime Minister, to push Internet issues across
bureaucratic departmental boundaries. As e-envoy, he will
be responsible for ensuring implementation of the 60 recommendations
included in email@example.com, the report by the Performance
and Innovation Unit published in September. The document advocates
removing barriers to e-commerce through lowering telecommunications
charges, widening access to the Internet to all social groups
and setting targets for government services delivered on the
The latter includes aiming for 90
per cent of routine government procurement to be done electronically
by March 2001, with all public services capable of electronic
delivery by 2008. "If the targets are too soft, we will
up them .... I am quite ready to be judged on my results."
(Mr Allan was speaking on a video
link from Canberra, Australia, where he remained as High Commissioner
until he took up the e-envoy post in January).
Some industry representatives yesterday
(at the ICX conference) criticised the delay, which followed
an earlier hold-up in appointing Mr. Allan. Others have questioned
whether one person could reform government processes and galvanise
Internet use among companies.
However, Mr Allan told delegates at
the ICX London conference that he was planning to recruit
from the public and private sectors.
He said he would address two main
complaints from businesses: high telecommunication costs and
difficulties in convincing banks to allow companies to process
credit cards online. "I welcome the recent announcement
from BT on its flat rate. But there is a lot more needed -
particularly in assuring that all the regions can take advantage
of high bandwidth services. I really want to be seen as someone
who can make a difference.
read more about the Third ICX Winter Conference click here.