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1901 Census site still down after six months

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The farce surrounding the UK's 1901 Census site hit a new milestone this week - it's six months since the site was launch and it still doesn't work.

So far the Public Record Office (PRO) has spent £1.2 million of public money on the site but won't commit to say when it will be up and running.

When it was launched at the beginning of January it was the first time that the census for England and Wales had been made available online.

The flagship project was supposed to give people access to information of some 32 million people who lived in the UK a hundred years ago.

But within hours of its launch the site encountered problems denying people access to historical information. At the time, this was described as "teething troubles".

Six months on and the site is still down.

The technical outfit behind the site, Qinetiq - the new "science and technology powerhouse formed from the...British Government's elite defence research and development organisation" - is continuing to carry out testing and improvements.

According to a spokesman, Qinetiq has completed its testing of the site and is happy with its performance.

However, the site is now undergoing tests by the PRO which will not give the green light for the re-launch unless convinced it will work.

And since the PRO has not given its go-ahead it seems that the PRO is not wholly satisfied that the site will work.

A statement on PRO Web site reads: "The PRO apologises for how long the testing has been taking. We are aware that six months have passed since 1901 Census Online was first launched. Both the PRO and Qinetiq Ltd, who are responsible for the technical aspects of the service, are testing the system. The nature of testing is such that it throws up issues that need to be addressed, and on occasion requires tests to be re-done. The primary objective is to ensure that the Web site is sufficiently robust, so that our customers can have a satisfactory experience when they use it.

"This has meant that we cannot give precise dates for the return of the service and we do not want to raise expectations by giving deadlines that are not met. We are aware that this has caused much frustration to our customers, frustration which we share, and for which we apologise," it said. ®

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