Town and Parish Councils are part of government yet the majority are failing in the digital world. Many council websites are lacklustre, unimaginative, missing information required by law but worst of all out of date.

The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP is a leading advocate of digital government and part of the Efficiency and Reform Group and the Government Digital Service. The UK is currently hosting the D5 summit. The D5 are a group of the leading digital governments in the world.

Speaking at the opening of the D5 summit he observed...

“The digital revolution has introduced more choice, more speed and greater convenience into the worlds of business and retail. It changed the way we live and work. Yet governments were generally much slower off the mark.”

“Certainly that was our experience in the UK. In 1999 the government promised that all services would be electronic by 2008. But those few services which were eventually digitised required applicants to print out dozens of pages, sign them and post them off. That supposedly online process was more dead tree than digital.”

Why digital government?

“In Estonia, several years ago, I asked the Prime Minister why his country had so emphatically embraced digital government. He pointed to 2 factors that had pushed them down the digital path. Firstly, he said they had no legacy, because when the Russians left they had taken everything. Secondly, they had no money, which meant they had to do things differently.”

What's digital government about?

“But digital government is about more than just savings. It’s also a chance to design truly 21st century public services. People can book a train ticket at midnight or order their shopping from their phone. They expect government to operate in an equally responsive way, providing services tailored to their needs, quickly, conveniently and affordably.”

Why digital government will not be perfect...

“Our new digital services won’t always be perfect first time. Nor do things finish when they go live. That’s not the point. It’s an iterative process which means things have to evolve continually. The feedback will continue and so will the refinements.”

The public sector...

“Too often there is a risk aversion within the public sector. People feel unable to try new things. Governments are very good at looking at new ideas and finding reasons not to do them. They never apply the same scrutiny to the status quo. We must encourage people to experiment and take risks to find new and better ways of doing things, even if they don’t always work. The greatest mistake is to never try anything new or to stick to something that doesn’t work.”

In conclusion...

“To revolutionise public services in the way that eBay and Amazon have revolutionised the marketplace. To renew the relationship between citizens and the state, just as Skype has brought people closer together and Facebook keeps people connected.”