This article appears in eGov monitor Weekly

18 November 2002

Sustainable local eGovernment

By Stuart Hibbert

Half term report

Despite the large sums and valiant efforts invested so far in eGovernment, it isn't yet meeting the original promise of improved services and cost savings. Most of this is down to citizen adoption which compared to other governments is low (Taylor Nelson Sofres' recently ranked the UK 23rd out of 31 in terms of citizen adoption). But this has to be put into perspective that the vast majority of transactional services have yet to be made available electronically and conveniently; with increased availability and convenience will come increased uptake.

Transactions are at the heart of it all

The majority of citizens and businesses appear to be using electronic channels primarily as an information source - but it is the availability of transactional information that is driving uptake.

As Fern Naito once said "When you have them by their wallets, their hearts and minds will follow".

The e-GIF policies and framework documents have identified transactional information as a key to successful eGovernment, but the reality of what is actually happening appears to be quite different. What has been introduced so far doesn't appear to be, or have the ability to be, joined-up with similar services, and doesn't really consider the needs of citizen and business users - this is evident in the recent results of the Taylor Nelson Sofres report.

In contrast if we compare this to the commercial world, 9.8 million people in the UK, will be using electronic banking services by the end of 2002 according to Datamonitor - which goes to demonstrate that if the services exist, citizens and businesses will use them.

Introducing the citizens' transactional home

For eGovernment to be successful, you need to provide your citizens and businesses with electronic applications that are more convenient than traditional means (face-to-face, telephone, post). Electronic services need to be structured around the needs of citizens and businesses; available irrespective of location; at times that suit them - 24/7; on any device (digital TV, PC, mobile devices or kiosks) which is easy to use and understand; and most importantly, overcoming issues regarding digital exclusion (disabilities, language or ICT skills).

Electronic service delivery projects that are delivered in isolation to other services are likely to fail due to their fragmented approach; inconsistent appearance; varying levels of quality; or even just not appealing to citizens and businesses. From an individual implementation point of view it may be easier - but you are in danger of reinventing the wheel many times over (security and authentication, multi channel support, etc) and more importantly wasting money.

Generally speaking, in an isolated delivery environment, many of the transactions that are undertaken are by themselves insignificant due to the time between events. By bringing all of these transactions together (customer service, council tax, NDR, benefits, parking, housing, etc), you create an environment that is interactive (drill down into as much detail as is required and act upon it - a living transaction); enabling (payment, applications, queries, etc); familiar because it offers a consistent experience and quality of service; regularly updated; supports multiple electronic channels; offers a feeling of affinity to your organisation; and many other benefits which are only possible in a joined-up world.

As this is likely to become the citizen and business destination when interacting with you electronically it offers a massive marketing opportunity to make them aware of local issues - as well as soliciting their opinions and getting them involved.

Organisation Obstacles

Although the e-Envoy is publishing solid frameworks and polices, we have, through our dealings with local authorities, picked up the feeling that there is a general lack of guidance as a whole.

Services should be structured around the needs of citizens and businesses - not based on organisational structures.

From an implementation point, you are likely to have many disparate computer (and manual) systems that need to be brought together. Existing system vendors will already be touting bolt-on modules for their particular applications - in an isolated world with no other dependencies this works well - but not generally when a more joined-up service is expected.

Some technical issues:

Fewer separate front-ends:

The functionality accompanying a citizens' transactional home needs to be allow a user to see a summary view of accounts, drill down to get further detail, look at historical records and make payment on the accounts. In order to achieve this, relevant data need be drawn from the separate systems (proprietary, structured and semi-structured) as XML into one database for internal use and making available to the public through electronic channels.

Data management:

As well as drawing data from various sources it will be necessary to write the data back to those resident systems in their various specific formats thus maintaining the currency on those systems.

Joined up channels:

The new system must be able to feed the range of channels that citizens are going to have at their disposal. Citizens are likely to use a combination of channels, both conventional and electronic. As an example - having received an SMS (mobile phone) message, Citizen Kane calls your call centre to get further information, and decides to apply for the service electronically using your interactive digital TV service.

In addition it must be able to match the needs of the citizen by presenting the data in a range of languages and formats for people with disabilities and non-expert ICT skills.

Security and Authentication:

Before a member of the public can access their accounts through an electronic channel, their identity needs to be authenticated.

It will be essential to integrate user authentication for the new facilities with any existing systems, ensuring a single login procedure that can use third party verification databases such as Electoral Roll or the Post Office Address File.

Usernames and passwords can be quickly and cheaply issued to a verified electronic address (email / mobile phone). Accounts can be activated immediately or require a further associated step to be completed (e.g. call to contact centre).

Authentication through client certificates and smart card technologies will need to be integrated as these services become available.

Staff access rights can suit the organisational management systems. For example, an area manager can view a consolidated view of all the sites in their area - whilst their manager would see the information for all of the area managers.


If the benefits can be proven to your citizens and businesses transaction services are likely to become the reason that they choose to interact with you electronically as the information available is personally significant to them, more accessible than through other conventional channels, convenient and responsive to their individual needs.

Success will enable tremendous efficiencies to be achieved, ranging from cost savings to business processes. In fact research shows that less than only about 3 per cent uptake of service is required to provide adequate return on investment. E-transactions will radically enhance the way in which you interact with and the relationship you build with your citizens and businesses. All of which will mean you have more resources available to deal with those which need you more.

This is what we call the citizens' transactional home.

Stuart Hibbert ( is a co-founder of X200 Limited. A private company located in London, England which provides integrated citizens' transactional home solutions. If you would like to find out more about X200, please visit their website at or call them on +44 (0) 870 201 1200.