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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Putting faith in ICT

I am always wary of anybody who comes to me with a proposal that relies on Information and Communications Technology and which they say will save money. That is especially so in the public sector.

I was interested therefore in reading in today's Telegraph that the UK Government plans to ensure that all websites offering services with 100,000 transactions or more, including tax and benefits payment sites, will be reviewed and redesigned to improve their efficiency.

This will affect the seven departments that handle the vast majority of all such services, including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Department for Transport and the Home Office. They will pick three systems to show what could be done. These could include existing systems for paying for car tax, completing tax returns or paying VAT.

The Government estimate that moving services from physical to digital channels may deliver them savings of around £1.7billion. Savings will apparently come from decreasing the time it takes for staff to deal with transactions, significantly reduced postage costs, and decreased costs for facilities and IT.

I am all in favour of improving access to these systems and making them easier to use, but as for savings, on past experience I will believe that when I see it.

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