Brown wants most public services offered online only

Gordon Brown

The Prime Minister has announced plans to make most public services only available online in the coming years, although it is not the full commitment desired by his appointed Champion for Digital inclusion.

In a speech yesterday at the Royal Society, Gordon Brown said that he planned to "shift the great majority of our large transactional services to become online only" over the next five years after consultation with Martha Lane Fox.

The first services to shift in 2010 will be student loans, jobseekers' allowance, working tax credits and child benefit. In 2011, VAT returns and employer tax returns will also go online.

Brown is clearly an advocate of the move to online services, announcing further funding of 30 million to get another one million people online by 2012 - not least because of the potential cost savings.

"[Going online only] has the potential to save as a first step 400 million but as transaction after transaction goes on line billions more," he said.

Lane Fox told IT PRO: "I welcome the news of the Prime Minister's plan to provide an extra 30 million in funding to UK online centres to help at least one million of [the digitally excluded] to get online."

However, in a speech delivered by Lane Fox at the Royal Geographical Society earlier this month, she called for all services go online to help push the 10 million people not using the internet to try it out.

"I think that shutting down services would be the bet way of carrying through the most amount of people, as long as it is carried through with training," she said.

Brown also referred to work he had done alongside Sir Tim Berners-Lee in his speech to help "make public data public." The Prime Minister plans on making databases available online from central government, local councils, the NHS, police and education authorities.

"Releasing data can and must unleash the innovation and entrepreneurship at which Britain excels - one of the most powerful forces of change we can harness," he said.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.