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Gov tries to work out if anyone is visiting its websites

But first it will try and work out how many it's got

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The government is trying to get a grip on its sprawling estate of websites by taking the revolutionary step of actually verifying how much traffic they generate.

The Central Office of Information says it is "driving forward a programme of work to assess the value for money of government websites to the taxpayer".

It has taken on ABCe to "independently validate the figures generated by an audit of government websites".

All the government's departments will be required to submit their figures to the organisation, which will enforce a consistent set of measurements for users, impressions and number and length of visits.

The COI Board Director for Interactive Services Alex Butler said in a statement that: “We are determined to drive up the quality of government websites to ensure they offer excellent value for money for the taxpayer, and a better user experience."

That commitment has been a while coming. While governments are famous for not wanting to divulge information, this one in particular has used a galaxy of websites to do so, some of which have generated absurdly paltry viewing figures.

Last April, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts found that the Government is not entirely sure how many websites it has, but believes there could be as many as 2,500. Nor does it know how much these websites costs or if anyone is using them. The committee's guesstimate for the total cost of the .gov.uk estate is £208m.

Earlier this year, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle revealed that the main Treasury site www.hm-treasury.gov.uk had 266,462 visitors last March, before steadily sliding down to 80,548 in September. Figures spiked to 465,585 visits in October and 245,986 in November - presumably because of the worldwide financial meltdown. By February they had slumped again to 152,542.

Other Treasury sites turned in comically low numbers. isb.gov.uk's (Invest to Save Budget to you) visitors has ranged between 6,359 and 2,092 over the last year.

The Financial Inclusion Taskforce's site, launched last October, pulled in 985 visitors in its first month, before slumping to 353 the following month. By March it had dragged itself up to 1,156. ®

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