Gov 2.0

By Nick Holmes on January 12, 2007
3 comments
Filed under Government, Web 2.0

In its Progress report on Transformational Government Strategy just published, the Cabinet Office reports that the government will close at least 550 government websites, with only 26 certain to be retained (presumably the Departmental websites plus DirectGov and Business Link to which information from the closed websites is to be transferred).

The move is sold as “the natural next step for Government as citizens shift their interest to ‘supersites’ such as the Directgov and www.bbc.co.uk websites”. That’s true only indirectly. We are not interested in supersites as such. The portal is passé; our focus is on search and increasingly also on syndication, and supersites can deliver results to these platforms far more effectively than dozens of disparate sites that are competing with each other for our attention.

The BBC site has always struck me as particularly effective: a short, universally-known domain, with most topics as naturally-named top-level folders. You can in many cases guess the URL you need; but if not, it will always rank very high for an appropriate search. I don’t visit DirectGov much, but you’ll also find it ranking high in Google results, the more so as the disbanded government site content is transferred to it.

The next step should be to implement URL-style searching like Wikipedia. Enter any likely topic after the wiki URL. If a matching page title or one to which your term has been mapped exists, the page loads directly (eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/car tax); if not Wikipedia presents a page with options to search for the information in different ways (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/tax my car).

Come to think of it, why not wiki.gov.uk, then we could roll our own government.

3 comments

I am pleased that the government is finally doing something to address the spiralling inefficency of government websites. By way of exampel a website has been set up in relation to the inquest into the death of Diana Princess of Wales and Dodi AlFayed, so I enquired at what cost, the answer is staggering:

Phillip Golding

Head of Corporate Communications

By e-mail:

Andrew Keogh Esq

Tuckers Solicitors

11 January 2007

Freedom of Information Request

Thank you for your email of 2 January in which you ask, under the Freedom of Information Act, about costs associated with Baroness Butler-Sloss’s Inquests website: http://www.butler-sloss-inquests.gov.uk. The prime purpose of the website is to keep the public informed of matters relating to the Inquests: the first public meeting was held on 8 January 2007.

The cost of the Inquests website

The website was designed and built in-house at no direct cost by Judicial Communications Office (JCO) staff. There are three related costs covering: (a) set up; (b) server-load capacity; and (c) defensive registering.

(a) Set up

The cost of setting up the website on the DCA’s web server by Cable & Wireless was £9,499.65. This included domain registration, creating File Transfer Protocol (FTP) access to the server which allows JCO staff to directly upload information onto the site, project management, creating server space and set-up costs with a specialist hosting company.

(b) Server-load capacity

We were advised by DCA’s IT specialists and their web hosting company Cable & Wireless that, with the known national and international interest in the subject of the Inquests, there was a likelihood the website might ‘crash’ unless its server capacity was increased. After consultation with the DCA and Cable & Wireless the JCO has taken steps to ensure this won’t happen by taking out a 12-month contract at a cost of £5125 per month with a company whose specialism is the ability to handle peaks in demand.

A number of precedents shaped this decision. In January 2002 the National Archive’s 1901 Census website crashed because its server capacity was exceeded by exceptionally high levels of public demand and as a result the site was ‘down’ for several months. In 2004 the Hutton Inquiry’s website also made use of a specialist web-hosting company when Lord Hutton’s final report was published: in the event it sustained a hit rate well in excess of its normal server capacity but didn’t crash.

Given the expert technical views and past experience in this area, we believe the expenditure is necessary to ensure the robustness of the Inquests’ website.

(c) Defensive registering

As a standard precaution we have also spent £186.60 registering similar web domain names with “org.uk”, “.co.uk” and “.com” URLs to protect the integrity of the site from anyone who may want to clone the Inquests website for their own uses.

What alternative methods of communicating the information intended for the website were considered, if any, and their relative cost?

There is a reasonable public expectation that information should be made readily and easily accessible electronically at a time and place of their choosing. It is clear there is major national and international interest in the Inquests and thus a website is the only option that will enable the Deputy Coroner to reach that audience. The alternative resource cost in terms of staff, printing and postage in handling and responding to specific and general queries would be prohibitive and relatively slow.

The Deputy Coroner’s decisions on the meeting on 8 January will be placed on the website next week. When the witness hearings – which will form the main part of the Inquests – start, Baroness Butler-Sloss intends to make all transcripts of proceedings available on the website: clearly hard-copy publications would be unable to cope with the potential interest.

The Judicial Communications Office is also responsible for managing the Inquests’ media relations. There are only two JCO press officer posts and the website is already greatly assisting them in providing relevant information about the Inquests.

In terms of direct communications with the public and the media, and based on the experience of the Hutton Inquiry, a website was the only viable communications option open to the Inquests.

The decision to hold the Inquests’ first public meeting in early January was taken in December. Following this decision the website was built and populated in an extremely short timescale of about two weeks to ensure it was live before the Christmas-New Year holiday break.

I hope this answers your queries, but if not please do come back to me with any other points.

Phillip Golding

by andrew keogh on 13 January 2007 at 3:46 pm. #

I have no wish to intrude on anyone’s personal grief but do have an interest in getting to the truth and would like to know how an ordinary member of the public may present evidence to the public inquest of Princess Diana.
I re-discovered the authentic Memoirs of King George III, which have been suppressed for 150 years because they substantiate the’Royal Bigamy’. Prince Charles and the Royal Family are neither the rightful nor lawful heirs to the Throne, technically.
I was in contact with Princess Diana and this is the story she said before her death she was going to give to the media. I believe this to be important and relevant. Can you help?
Sign the No 10 Downing Street e-petition at: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/royalfamily/

Martin Ball
mllab@hotmail.com

by Martin Ball on 5 June 2007 at 12:15 pm. #

[…] long time ago in a land far, far away I reported that under the 2006 Cabinet Office “Transformational Government Strategy” at least 550 […]

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