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UK tops UN e-government league



Britain has the best blend of telecoms, human capital and online services according to newly published international index

The UK has come out as the leader in the United Nations’ rankings for e-government, topping the table in the new survey published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Undesa).

According to the development index in the UN e-Government Survey 2016, the country now surpasses high performers such as Australia, South Korea, Singapore and Finland in meeting the demands of ICT in public services.

The report points to a handful of factors responsible for the UK’s top spot, such as £1.7 billion in efficiency savings through digital transformation in 2014, the establishment of GOV.UK as the national portal for central government services, and the deployment of new technologies such as HTML5, the latest mark-up language for web content.

It also emphasises a relatively high take-up of some digital services, such as 85% for self-assessment tax filing and 98% for booking driving tests.

The index reflects a composite of indicators, covering telecommunications infrastructure, human capital and – the one which would appear most relevant – online services. This is meant to measure the readiness and capacity of governments to use ICT in public services, and takes in national websites, how e-government policies and strategies are applied, and the delivery of essential services.

Its relative complexity might indicate why the UK’s position is higher than in some other surveys. In the EU’s most recent Digital Economy and Society Index it was stuck in the pack for digital public services, well behind high performers such as Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Evolution to integration

Commenting on the worldwide trend, the UN report says there has been an evolution towards providing more integrated services online through one-stop platforms – of which GOV.UK could be cited as an example.

Governments are also paying plenty of attention to privacy and security of personal data, but they are running into problems around the interoperability of systems, and finding it particularly difficult to integrate e-health services due to a proliferation of technologies.

“Efforts to promote whole-of-government service delivery and policies have to be accompanied with efforts to ensure that organisational cultures, coordination mechanisms and financial and accountability systems support collaboration among public institutions,” the report says.

Image: "P UK Flag". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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