Like much of the rest of the world, the hard-up UK government is on a money saving drive right now. It seems that even stretches to paper application forms. An Observer report over the weekend suggested that all government services will soon have to be applied for online.
Student loans, driving licences, passports and benefits are among the services that would only be available via online forms. It’s a move that could reportedly save billions of pounds from the public purse.
That’s all well and good until you consider the vast swathe of people across the country who are still offline (27% of households), either by choice or because they can’t afford an Internet connection.
Government minister Francis Maude told The Observer that support will be available for those who need it but that the Britain needed to be “At the forefront of the digital age”. Those without Internet access would have to visit a Post Office to complete forms electronically.
I’m all for taking as much admin as possible online – it’s much quicker and cheaper – but in this case we’re dealing with services that in many cases are required by some of the most vulnerable people in the country. With an ever-shrinking network of Post Offices in the UK, could this be a disaster waiting to happen? John Lister at Tech Blorge argues that there’s past form to take into account here too. “The record of government computer systems in Britain is pretty atrocious (government departments are still using the virus-ridden Internet Explorer 6) and many people simply don’t trust officials to keep electronic data secure.”
It may be that this is “Too much, too soon” for British society, but we’ll wait before we pass judgement. More details are likely be available later this week, when the move is expected to be formally announced