Directgov gets Cabinet Office overlords
DWP stripped of public services website duty
Responsibility for the government’s online service - Directgov - is set to become part of the Cabinet Office minister’s brief.
Iain Duncan-Smith, who is Secretary for Work and Pensions, currently oversees Directgov’s functions.
However, Frances Maude is about to take charge of UK.gov’s website in yet another shake-up initiated by Number 10. It said that legislation would be brought in shortly to reflect the changes.
In March then PM Gordon Brown announced plans to create a personalised web page for every UK citizen to access all public services online in a single location, which was of course the original intention of Directgov.
Brown’s “Mygov” centralised dashboard, which was supposed to help save money by cutting face-to-face services, never saw the light of day and it’s unclear what will happen with Directgov once it’s in the hands of the Cabinet Office.
Meanwhile, the Central Office of Information (COI) penned a letter to Scottish National Party MP Michael Weir in answer to his parliamentary question - put to Cabinet Office minister Nick Hurd last week - about Directgov.
“What estimate he [Hurd] has made of the effect on the number of Civil Service posts of his Department’s plans to reduce the size of websites of individual Government Departments; and what assessment he has made of the effect on consumers of the consolidation of information from those departments to the DirectGov website,” he asked.
The COI’s Mark Lund told Weir that individual departments were responsible for their own staffing levels including the amount work put into government websites.
He added that, following a recent report on the cost, usage and quality of UK.gov online services, the CIO had not included recommendations for a reduction in the size of the sites.
”No assessment has been made of on the consolidation of information to the Directgov website as this is again a matter for individual depts,” he noted.
Directgov launched in April 2004 and the website now claims over 20 million hits per month. Responsibility for the online service is accustomed to doing the hokey-cokey between departments.
It started life in the Cabinet Office’s e-government unit before being shunted over to the DWP in 2008 by the previous Labour administration.
Oh, and Directgov gets a little bit of love from "digital champion" Martha Lane Fox too. Bless. ®
DWP made it work
When in Cabinet Office, DirectGov claimed that you could use a 3rd party digital certificate for secure access, but a very respected IT consultancy could not make that work. Moving DG to DWP made it work a lot better, but it seemed odd for DWP to be a service supplier to other depts, so taking it back to a non-spending dept makes sense. And there is a new team at Cabinet Office, hopefully more approachable than the original group.
Yup, DirectGov is the Yahoo! front page of government
A big old gaudy branding mess slapped on what's essentially a disparate set of services that you can find a lot faster just by Googling.
That they keep moving things around doesn't help either - it really is easier to just Google for what you want rather than to play hunt-the-moving-link.
Symptoms not problem
DirectGov is the wrong solution. It's little more than an umbrella brand over disparate Government services. It doesn't make them easier to find or use.
If I want to find a government service, I'll first try the site belonging to the department I think owns it. If I can't find it there, I'll Google it.
Apart from a crappy orange logo and some press releases, DirectGov doesn't add anything.
OK, it also provides a hosting platform based on (I think) Stellent for those Gov departments (at least the ones that fit the DirectGov model) to consolidate their pages onto. However, unless you're just publishing simple content pages, you don't fit the model. That's why you have to shell out of DirectGov to renew your tax disc.
And if you are just publishing content, there are better, cheaper ways than using Stellent. A government-wide install of Drupal and WordPress would take car of content sites big and small.
It's OK if you like orange though.