The government is reported to be briefing a number of Central Office of Information roster agencies on a launch campaign for a major new initiative, UK Online.

The project, which aims to drag Albion kicking and screaming into the e-era, has two main objectives: (1) the creation of a network of public learning centres; and (2) a government portal.

The latter will evolve over a period into a dual purpose online gateway, disseminating official information and facilitating such tasks such as the completion of tax returns and driving licence applications.

The learning network will develop as a partnership between the state and private enterprise, with free internet access available at public places like libraries and leisure centres.

New Labour recently accelerated its timetable for bringing the UK into the digital age. Its initial target was the electronic delivery of 452 public services by 2008; but in April this timescale was brought forward to 2005. Progress has been impressive: over one third of these services, 152 in all, are already available online, among them the Companies House, Ordnance Survey and National Statistics Office sites.

The government plans an integrated marketing approach to what it sees as a long term campaign and the (unnamed) shops invited to pitch include ad agencies, direct marketing specialists and PR firms. The budget has not been disclosed but is likely to be substantial.

News source: CampaignLive (UK)