British government-appointed “e-envoy" Alex Allan has announced that, in order to oil the wheels of e-commerce, his main task will be dragging his employers into the 21st century.

Allan, who took up his unique position last Tuesday, has said his priority is getting his own government department - Whitehall - onto the Internet.

“This will have the double effect of giving small businesses a better service and will be a huge cost saving to government,” Allan said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Allan, a former computer consultant and then high commissioner in Australia, added: “Some department have been laggardly and there is a lack of coherence in government policy.

“There is also a running study reviewing major computer disasters, to find how fiascos like the Passport Office can happen.

“To this extent, there is more to do inside government but it would be fatal if we neglected what was happening outside government.”

To this end, he has prompted the Cabinet Office to launch a Web site dedicated to messages and comments from the public.

Allan said: “It is the unexpected and incidental that come to the fore when people are invited to comment.

“I don’t promise to answer them all, but I will try to read them.”