back to article Martha pushes online government as DirectGov CEO pushes off

The government’s digital darling Martha Lane Fox has claimed that billions of pounds could be saved if the Coalition agrees to her advice to shift more services online. Fox said that the team running the Directgov website should be a “citizens’ champion with sharp teeth” and at the same time government portals should be …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Here's an idea ...

    Why doesn't David Haye fight Vitali Klitschko [1]? Since it's my idea, I should get 10% (gross) of the takings. Obviously the months of training, preparation, pain, suffering, possible death or injury should not go unrewarded so the winner can have the rest (less expenses).

    The thing about ideas is that they are ten a penny - it's the actual implementation that takes the skill, perseverance, effort and carries the risk. As opposition parties who are happy to sit on the sidelines and snipe find, when they unexpectedly win an election and have to try to implement all the fine words that sounded so great when they didn't have to do them.

    MLF (that is how you spell it, isn't it?) is in the same position. Of course it makes sense for the government to do lots of things to save money. And they all sound very fine when people talk about them. However the view from 10,000 feet is very different from that on the ground so the only response to her suggestions for saving £1.5Bn can be: "OK then, off you go. Come back when it's finished and we'lll give you your 10%" Or maybe she'd find 10 rounds with the Haye Maker easier?

    [1] for the uninitiated, two rather large gentlemen who make a living by hitting people until they lose consciousness - or some judges decide one has hit the other better.

  2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Fair enough

    Give her some credit, she has a point. Shifting a few more arcane apps off the client/server model and into some html based app using RAD tools like Oracle's Apex for example, surely that must have some benefit?

    Of course the fat-cats making a pigging mint from selling the Gov IT services would not be able to cream it in so much, so that's that idea shot down!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Job Creation ?

    So she's recommending herself for the CEO position then ? She does not after all have a permanent position and serves at the discretion of the ruling party, who apparently couldn't find anyone else to fill the position other than a former travel agent.

    Also how well does her plan to shift everything online like face to face benefits assessments merge with the Coalition's current policy to root out fraudsters, £2.2 bn saved ? I that factoring in approx £27 million boxes of Sir Phillip Green's boxes of really expensive copier paper, I think we should be told.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I would LOVE more online government

    but is that "real" online government, or "let's have an email address so we can ignore people" type government.

    I speak as a citizen of Birmingham, who have a pretty good web presence. However, and attempt to contact them via their website generates no confirmation, and mysteriously, every time I've used it, despite being assured "the system is working" they can find no record of my contact.

    Even my MP, the totally useless Gisella Stuart, had to agree they were fairly incompetent - which tells you how bad they are.

    Actually to be fair, some .gov services are pretty cool - the DVLA site helps a lot.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Leading the way ????

    Im surprised you did not comment that this report (from our digital saviours).. Is a 5mb+ PDF file for 11 pages, thats a SCAN (you can see the shadows) and totally inaccessible. How is that supposed to provide confidence from the public, or the people who's sites need to be converged?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I think she is wonderful.

    1. Code Monkey

      Good for you

      I think she's a bit too keen on shiny new technology at the expense of critical thinking.

      1. Mr Young
        Thumb Up

        That's a very polite reply I would say

        But you imply MLF is capable of critical thinking? This can't be right can it?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          It's not so much the thinking abilities that I admire.

  7. Is it me?

    Remember eGig and GITS

    Shifting as many government services to online as possible, and then making them the default for accessing services is a bad idea. Yes OK administratively it saves money, but should we really be trying to make government deliver at the lowest cost possible.

    IT provides a route to shift processing offshore, something being considered much more actively, even in areas that would never have remotely been considered before. Do you really need you tax forms processed in the UK, couldn't someone inn the far east do it just as well.....

    The one size fits all mentality just does not work with human beings, we are all different, and in fact the more you try to press that agenda, the more people are likely to slip between the cracks.

    If our only interaction with the state for day to day activities becomes online, then the opportunities for fraud increase, it's a lot easier to lie to a computer than to a human, thus fraud detection becomes an issue, and we go to having most of our personal interactions with the state being intrusive checks for us doing something wrong, and officials calling only because they want to accuse us of something. Anything beneficial would be done through a computer, or a call centre, with little or no ability to sit face to face with an official.

    As the state withdraws from human contact, humans will withdraw from the state. The point of eGiF and GITS was to ensure the citizen could choose how it interacted with the state, not for the state to choose for them. It is true to say that dictatorships tend to be cheaper to run than democracies, democracy is expensive. Whilst I would hesitate to suggest that moving to a primarily e-access model will turn us into a dictatorship, it might well make us feel like we live in one. We might elect politicians, but their ability to change the way government does things will become more and more restrictive. It takes a lot longer to change the way a computer system works, than the way a civil servant does, and computer systems can only deal with exceptions they are programmed to know about, humans can make allowances.

    By all means make everything available through a single ePortal, and processable by systems, but don't take away human beings who live and breath the same society we do, government must always have a human face to the citizen, not just MP and their ilk.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Takes a lot longer to change a computer system than a civil servant ?

      Yes we do need Tax forms processed in the UK, otherwise they may be done efficiently by some Indian who then gives us correct rebates. Good God man, if HRMC didn't overcharge we'd be bankrupt in a week.

      Those honest former colony degree educated call centre workers or the inscrutable Chinese would never be a party to such a scandal. The banking system was bailed out by a cunning combination of not teaching Mathematics in Maths GCSE, online overcharging "self-assessment" and not giving anyone a rebate ever unless ordered by the courts, if we hadn't found a few billion in our nations' sock drawer we'd never have been able to bail out the city. If we keep on going with failed computer projects and not paying johnny foreigner the full amount for overcharging system, we may have enough left over to buy those Harriers and Helicopters.

      Let British incompetence remain a national treasure.


      It takes a lot longer to change the way a computer system works, than the way a civil servant does,


      You haven't been watching Yes Minister enough, it's available on the interweb, on those naughty bittorrent websites [ahem] I believe.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    With UK IP addresses due to run-out early next year I think this is great idea; maybe they could also set-up a Department of IP Addresses, applications for using one (for a strictly limmited time) must be made in writing no less than 3 months before it is required...

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