Economic benefits of e-govt unknown, says analyst

While the government can expect to save up to $300 million through electronic service delivery, one IT researcher claims departments are failing to measure key performance indicators of e-commerce efficiencies.

Marc Phillips, chief executive of Sydney-based online research firm APT Strategies, claims that 40 per cent of government agencies have no framework for measuring the economic benefits of e-commerce based services.

The finding comes from an APT study, The Economic Benefits of Australian Government Online, for which APT surveyed 100 government departments and agencies from the health, employment, education and training, transport, and finance and administration offices over the past year.

According to Phillips, government e-commerce activities focus on government to government (G2G) exchange, government to citizen (G2C) interaction and business to business (B2B) e-procurement.

For such activities, Phillips said agencies across the board could not quantify the cost savings of online business because they did not monitor key performance metrics like accurate Web visitor statistics or financial data.

"Reporting procedures are causing inaccurate evaluation of the clear benefits and cost savings being achieved," he said.

Phillips added that by Web-enabling existing paper-based services, the government replaced inefficient administrative processes like formed-based processing, stamping and enveloping.

However, he claimed there were clear examples of both federal and state government departments and agencies "failing to correctly document and publicise their cost savings".

Despite "big debate" in government departments over the value of measuring Web page impressions or user sessions for performance-based metrics, Phillips said they "don't care because they're not accountable".

"There's no metrics or standardised expectations; IT project managers are merely concerned with using their budgets," he said.

"A lot of the time departments get given the money and spend it, but they don't think twice to measure the economic benefits, like how many customer service calls they save by having an online process, or how many stamps they save by cutting out paper-based processing."

Phillips said many departments had IT budgets in the $100,00 to $200,000 range, yet "their care factor is zero".

He added that in some cases, there was "growing concern" savings from technology implementations were not being passed onto the taxpayer.

"For everyday processes like rate and bill-paying, the social benefits like cohesion and maintaining a level of consumer privacy online, are not being shared with the end-user," he said.

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