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MP asks UK.gov: Why are you still using IE6?

It's insecure, it's flaky... it's government IT policy

Tom Watson MP has spent the last few days asking government departments when they intend to upgrade their web browsers from IE6. Yes, that's Internet Explorer 6.

Responses ranged from departments which are in the process of upgrading like the Department of Justice and Foreign Office to the MoD, which has no intention of doing so at the moment.

Hats off to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which expects to complete its move to IE7 by the end of August. Less brilliantly, the Department of Children, Families and Schools plans to move from IE6 in 2010/2011. The Department of Health has no plans to upgrade - indeed it has yet to decide which browser to move to or when any such upgrade might happen.

Watson told the Reg: "I've asked the questions because I feel sorry for the thousands of civil servants using the Austin Allegro of web browsers when they can have newer, faster alternatives. I want government CIOs to pull their fingers out."

Given the amount of research civil servants are now doing online, as well as using their browsers on intranets, it seems a bit ridiculous that they don't use an up-to-date browser.

IE6 peaked with a 71.2 per cent market share in November 2003 when it was up against Netscape 7 and Mozilla. It has declined since then and now has 14.9 per cent share - full figures here.

A similar row has broken out in the US with the US State Department begging Hillary Clinton to be allowed to use Firefox instead.

And let's not forget it isn't just governments that can't be bothered to give their staff decent browsers - Orange UK recently threatened staff in one of its call centres with a £250 fine if they were caught with Firefox on their machines. ®

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