Under a new proposal, every British citizen would get a personal Web site through which they learn what local services are available to them and do business with government.
It’s something that’s being floated just months away from a general election, so keep that in mind, but the British government seems to be really trying to break the barriers to online interaction with the country’s people.
As part of a far-reaching plan announced today by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, every British citizen would get a personal Web site in the next year through which they could find out about what local services are available to them and do business with government.
Brown touted the personal Web site as a way for making interaction with government as easy to do as banking over the Internet or shopping via Amazon.com. Sir Tim Berners-Lee — the “father” of the Web — is the most prominent of the advisers who have been pushing this program.
Along with that specific suggestion, Brown also pushed the notion of “superfast” broadband that would finally bring a digital economy to the country and create another 250,000 skilled jobs by 2020 — minus, that is, the tens of thousands of public servants that would lose their jobs because of the personalized Web pages. But I guess they could use their own personal pages to more quickly apply for unemployment benefits.
The plan, at least in intended reach, seems very similar to the one that the Obama administration and Congress are trying to develop for the United States, and which finally became public last week. It follows just a few months after the United Kingdom launched its own version of Data.gov.
Then there’s the little question about how all of this will be paid for: apparently through some measure of taxes on landline telephony, plus surplus funds from the fee everyone in has to pay to watch BBC TV shows. That should become clearer when the next budget is presented on Wednesday.
The bigger question, however, is whether any of this will ever happen. It will probably start, since the Conservative Party is also committed to broadband, if not along the same lines as Brown’s Labour government. So whoever gets into power after the election will have a promise to live up to.
How it will end is the big point. As the example of the National Programme for IT (Britain’s attempt to digitize health) shows, government tech programs are not easy to take to a conclusion.