'UK e-government at a plateau'

‘Free market think-tank’ the Adam Smith Institute has issued a report, Rewiring Democracy (PDF) which claims: ‘e-government in the UK has hit a plateau’. Why?

‘e-government is seen as an end in itself, rather than a means to achieving better governance… the lack of a coherent strategy of what e-government is meant to achieve and the means with which to implement it… too narrow a definition of e-government… conducted in an overly centralized manner and micromanaged to suit the needs of the producer (the government) rather than the consumer (the citizen).’

As the report recognises, you may or may not consider its Estonian case study to be helpful: personally, I don’t think it’s a valid comparison, given Estonia’s zero-legacy situation in the 1990s. And I don’t think it’s possible to separate ‘implementation’ and ‘strategic goals’, as the report seeks to do.
But overall, although I’d probably say it differently, I think I agree with what it’s saying. The ultimate vision of e-government can only happen when data is flowing automatically around the public sector – which means integrated (or at least compatible) systems, and a single, shared ‘national identity register’ for each resident. Yes, an ID Card.
There are some good people in government trying to make the case for this. I had animated discussions myself with one key player. But it all gets lost in rants about ‘terrorism’ and ‘Big Brother’. We should be talking about what positive, tangible benefits can be achieved by something so simple as a single state Reference Number… and just as importantly, what can’t be delivered without it.