The UK Cabinet Office has published a study into e-government practices, highlighting how governments in the most advanced countries are moving into a new wave of electronic services and processes.
This "fourth wave" is allowing governments to change the way they do things - even reforming legislation - rather than just creating electronic versions of existing processes and services, the study found.
This new wave is beyond e-government, the group said, suggesting that a more accurate, if less catchy, buzzword could be technology-enabled government, or "t-government". The full report, by Booz Allen Hamilton, is available here.
It gives a detailed analysis of common challenges and conditions facing the US, Germany, Japan, France, UK, Italy, Canada, Sweden and Australia, and gives case studies drawn from more than 450 initiatives that were assessed.
The idea is to give concrete examples of best practice that governments can draw on rather than reinventing the wheel, said Jim Murphy MP, parliamentary secretary with the Cabinet Office. "The report will challenge us all to use ICT to make a real difference, by building on good practice examples to deliver customer-centered public services across Europe," he said in a statement.
One of the most striking examples of change was Italy's tax department, which simplified tax laws, reorganised the way the service was delivered and used IT to automate much of the new system, saving millions of euros.
Another example was the UK's Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which has been progressively transferring more of its university applications process online since 2002. This year, 74 percent of applications were made online, expected to go up to 90 percent next year.
UCAS has reduced its clerical staff from 40 to four, while more than 80 percent of applicants and university staff say they're happy with the service.
"Some initiatives are on the threshold of the fourth wave, which will move beyond the transformation of existing services to radically new ways of realising policy objectives," said Booz Allen Hamilton in a statement. The technologies enabling this will include the Internet as well as smartcards, pattern recognition and others, the group said.