Wednesday, August 02, 2006

e Won, gov None - Number 3 in an occasional seris

The last two brief looks at online services have clearly shown old world government taking the lead over e-government so I'm pleased to see the trend reversed. I'm probably last to the dance on this - at least one commenter has pointed me at the Car Tax Renewal service - but I'm there at last. Renewal time came and after walking a couple of miles to the post office where I renewed my tax disc last year I was disappointed to find it was now a furniture store. Banks into bars and post offices into posh sofa stores. Next stop, tax offices into travel agents? As far as I can tell, the renewal application doesn't run on direct.gov but it has a 'skin' that matches (indeed, you can see the skin specified in the URL), but it's simple to find from dg. The site shows you pictures of the forms you'll need - even if you haven't been sent the reminder (which, for the second year in a row, I hadn't received). All you have to do is key in one number. DVLA then checks your insurance and your MOT (giving rise to the one restriction - you must have a new-style MOT which most of you will have unless you happened to fall victim to a recent outage that would have meant you stil had a hand-written MOT). Three minutes after you start during which time you're kept entertained by a graphic of a car moving down an animated road, you're done and your tax disc is in the post. Maybe in future generations we'll be able to print one out right there with a special bar code on it to prove it's valid (on the assumption that the police can check the tax disc database as well, displaying a tax disc ought to be redundant these days, but perhaps it's useful visual check?). The next day I called DVLA just to check on a small point. By coincidence, someone I work with, who was at the next desk, had their tax renewal stuff with them and overheard me talking to DVLA. They renewed right there as did someone a few desks away. I hope it works otherwise I'm in trouble. Whilst I was on the phone to DVLA, two things impressed me: the first was that their system told me how long I was likely to have to wait (between 2 and 5 mins - which turned out to be about 2 1/2) and the second was that they referred me to directgov if I wanted to look up information online, not to the DVLA site. This is the first e-government service I've experienced the "neighbour effect" - a test I coined in January 2003 (on this blog anyway, I may have used it at a conference earlier). I'm really quite excited by that - it may only be a sample of one, but it takes only one to start a trend.

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