Ministers say 82% of “transactions” can be carried out online- as that is roughly the proportion of the population which uses the internet.
But the National Audit Office argued that the percentage of people able to access some services, such as those used by elderly people, was lower. It called for “continued access” to face-to-face and telephone services.
The government said it was continuing to offer help to users and promised to create websites “so good that people will prefer to use them”.
The coalition has moved most government services to the single gov.uk address, after Whitehall departments set up their own sites in a more piecemeal fashion. Other bodies are expected to follow by March next year.
It estimates that making services “digital by default” may save up to £1.2 billion during the current parliament, with future savings potentially reaching £1.8 billion a year in the longer term.
In its report, the National Audit Office (NAO) agreed there was “greater scope” for online public services.
It said: “The government, in calculating potential savings, has assumed that 82% of transactions with public services will be carried out online, the proportion of the population currently online.”
But it warned that “online use of some services falls short of that level”, and that “age, socio-economic group and disability do make a difference”.
The NAO looked at 20 public services and found the main reasons for lower take-up were: a preference for face-to-face dealings; an unwillingness to provide information online; and low awareness of some online services.
The report said: “The government has set out plans to help people not on the internet to use digital services. Given the scale of ‘digital exclusion’, the government now needs to put these plans into action to avoid a ‘them and us’ problem.”
The government is caught between a rock and hard place- on the one hand it wants to save money by channelling people to it’s websites and on the other hand they put up websites like the HMRC site which makes tooth extraction an alternative appealing option. I don’t just mean the joy of paying- but the so called interaction.