Brown creates one UK.gov website to rule them all
Centralised 'dashboard' to save lots of money
The government has announced plans for a personalised web page for every UK citizen to access all public services online in a single location.
Gordon Brown announced this morning "Mygov", a new centralised "dashboard" to act as a successor to Directgov, which was originally designed to achieve the same thing.
Emphasising the potential savings to be had by cutting face-to-face services, Brown said Mygov will allow citizens to "manage their pensions, tax credits or child benefits; pay their council tax; fix their doctors or hospital appointment and control their own treatment; apply for the schools of their choice and communicate with their children's teachers; or get a new passport or driving licence".
The PM said a cross-government initiative had begun to allow single sign-on to services provided by different departments online. He did not provide details, however, saying the initiative would allow users to "to identify themselves simply and definitively".
Likewise, Brown did not announce a schedule for Mygov. The project will be overseen by former dotcom travel agent Martha Lane-Fox, who will head a new "digital public services unit" in the Cabinet Office. She already acts as the government's "digital champion", working on broader internet access.
Lane-Fox's new unit will also aim to put the four million heavy users of public services who do not use the internet "at the heart of our strategy", Brown said, without providing details.
Brown also pledged Mygov will not require investment in large-scale IT infrastructure, and said it would take advantage of open source software.
The announcement is not the first time Labour has promised ubiquitous online services. Tony Blair's government said "100 per cent of services should be available online by 31 December 2005", then abandoned the commitment in 2004.
Brown's announcement today was quickly seized on by activists campaigning against the Digital Economy Bill, which could mean households are temporarily disconnected from the internet over accusations of persistent copyright infringement. Explicitly making the web the main way people interact with government would make such a measure disproportionate, they argue.
Mygov was announced in a speech on "Building Britain's Digital Future", which also discussed other aspects of the Digital Economy Bill. Brown defended Labour's 50p per month tax on every landline telephone account, which it plans to use to subsidise the rollout of fibre optics to rural areas where it would not otherwise be commercially viable.
"The choice with broadband infrastructure is clear," he said, in criticism of Tory policy, which envisages less intervention.
"We can allow unbridled market forces to provide a solution on its own terms and according to its own timetable as others would do.
"The result would be superfast broadband coverage determined not even by need or social justice, or by the national interest but by profitability alone. This would open a lasting, pervasive and damaging new digital divide."
Brown's full speech is here. ®
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