Information wants to be free... except at UK Customs
Joined up e-govt in action
Millions has been spent on consultants helping implement e-government. But has it ever been spent more effectively than this example?
Over at HM Customs (HMRC), inspectors can find an online version of the National Insurance Manual.
Let's take a look. Now what if you're a compliance officer who suspects that there's fraud involving NI numbers? Check the manual, of course.
So far, so good. What can we do about NI fraud? Follow the link.
Alas things become a bit unclear, here.
Information must be free: except at HM Customs.
As it turns out, the information is given out on a strictly "need to know" basis. And the public isn't entitled to know it. Well, that's fine. What makes this so nice is that instead of a simple "operational instructions are not available to the public" message, is this brutally emphatic (and ironic) invocation of FOIA. Sort of an iron fist wrapped in an iron glove.
"The bullet points make it so much easier to read," points out reader J.
Weren't online manuals supposed to replace dead tree versions? Back to paper we go, then. ®
Typical Gov't Webite
I needed to log on to the DVLA to get a replacement licence (Well I didn't - it was in the washing basket but that's another story). Easy - I'm British, NI number? Licence Number? Nope - an eGov ID account is required. OK - where do I get one of them then? Follow the link from the DVLA site that says, "No account? Register here then..." but what thousands of Forums around the world from IT Speciality sites to Baby Food comanies already know - our Government Web developers seem to have forgotten. There IS no "Register" link. You have to go to the gov't home page - and there it is. Call me thick but it took me an hour to find it, and even then I Googled for it! Not rocket-science is it? It's called a LINK. Put it in a header include file or style sheet or whatever the use now - and it'll be on all pages. S'easy!
And don't get me started on the online process for getting a new licence...!!
Hoist by our own petard?
Hoist by our own retards, more like.
@ Gordon Jahn
No, its not weird at all.
The version on the Intranet is the full version. The bits the public aren't allowed to see are replaced with the standard disclaimer & the resultant sanitised version is put out on the Internet. That keeps the page structure. No need then to try & keep two versions of the same thing in synch - the public can quote from the actual guidance given to staff: "Page nn of NIM123456 says that "etc., etc.,". Just another example of customer service from HMRC.