The head of the e-government initiative accepts a critic's claim that it needs to do more to train citizens to use online state services.
The government has given surprisingly little attention to date to the potentially huge training exercise that will be needed to enable ordinary citizens to interface with government online, says Cheryl Regan, founder of computer-based training company The Learning Curve.
E-government unit head Brendan Boyle agrees. He says the unit has the issue in its sights, but will wait for the portal, the citizen’s primary interface to e-government, to attain a firm shape. The extent of training needed will depend on how good the portal is.
“Through March, we’ll be playing with the prototype [portal],” he says, taking it to community groups and focus groups and “fine-tuning it”.
In Regan’s experience, however, the needs are basic. Some of the clients for her company’s learning aids need to be instructed in how to operate a mouse, and many more in the basic features of a browser.
At present, Boyle says, the e-government unit is concentrating on training staff across government, “about 200 of them”, to handle their side of the interaction.
The broader societal value of training in technology is underrated, Regan says, and this lack is a factor in the undervaluing and premature “retirement” of older people from an active working life.
Woolworths, for example, conceived a training package for its employees two years ago, when it was developing a widespread intranet. Those employees are now searching the internet with their children, she says.
Taking the opportunity to familiarise older people with technology increases the chance of preserving their accumulated life knowledge, she says. “Otherwise it will just be lost.”
Among the keys to good technology-aided learning are to make it interactive and fun, she says. Staff in an Australian-New Zealand company Regan does not want to name were introduced to the terminals they would use for the company CRM system by following the antics of a cartoon character from day to day.
It may sound childish, she says, but it got them involved with the terminals, and after about a week the serious material on CRM could be gradually introduced.