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May 13, 2005


Paul Evans

Good article. I think that the most attractive opportunity electronic government presents is being widely ignored.

New technology has the scope to humanise bureaucracies. Most institutional websites are exactly that - institutional. Their voice is that of a concise risk-averse rigid entity that will only engage in ways that it is obliged to - and then in the most opaque way possible.

To encourage officials to interact with people more - and asynchronous public discussions (such as this one) allow for that - will mean that this can be done reasonably efficiently. But it will still cost more than pre-e-government. It also blurs the lines between 'back office' and 'front line' in the way your article suggests. AND - using your Oyster card analogy, it would lead to a staton platform with plenty of well informed, articulate staff who are willing to listen and respond to queries and complaints.

I know that this point should be obvious, but surely the objective of public policy should be to find ways to motivate public servants to improve the quality of their work? New Labour's favoured regimen of benchmarking and auditing has bred a civil service of box-tickers. Whenever I pass through my local tube station, there is at least one member of staff standing there becuase the rules say that the gates must have a member of staff watching them at all time (probably what the insurance people demand?). But try and get help, advice, or make a suggestion .... no chance.

I would argue that civil servants should be lured into (initially limited) projects in which they have to interact with their 'customers'. It should be part of the training, and ultimately, part of every public servant's job.


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