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Progress in Making E-Services Accessible to All

National Audit Office

20 February 2003

More needs to be done to encourage older people – an increasingly large proportion of the population - to use government e-services if those services are to provide value for money, according to the National Audit Office.

A NAO report released today highlights that while steps have been taken to encourage sections of society, such as older people, to use electronic services, government departments and agencies need to be more proactive to tackle the dangers of a ‘digital divide’.

Sir John Bourn, Head of the NAO, praised the efforts of many UK online centres to encourage people with few or no IT skills, but felt that others could do more to encourage older people to use their facilities. He expressed some concern about the sustainability of some centres once current short-term funding ended and noted that progress had been slower than expected in setting them up in deprived areas.

The NAO also warn that departments should not develop further major interactive digital television services independently until existing pilots demonstrate a clear business case for the medium.

The report raises concern that many government websites still do not incorporate design features that would make it easier for older people to use them.

Among the NAO’s recommendations are that the Office of the e-Envoy takes the following action:

  • clearly define and publicise how it intends to measure progress towards the target of internet access for all who want it by 2005, and the criteria for assessing when the target is achieved
  • consider setting and monitoring a specific target for usage amongst older people to focus attention on this group;
  • undertake a marketing campaign, which includes specialist voluntary sector organisations and, in the media most commonly used by older people, highlight the benefits of using e-services, and draw attention to the main services available electronically; and
  • ensure that the requirements of those with disabilities are taken into account in any further development of government digital television and information kiosk services.

It also encourages all departments and agencies to review their e-services regularly against best practice on accessibility.

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