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Axe falls on Directgov as GOV.UK launches

A taxpayer service that saves taxpayer money... Hmm

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The government's new £4.6m-and-counting public services single domain website GOV.UK officially replaced Directgov this morning.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude confirmed in late 2010 that New Labour's garishly orange-coloured site would be killed off in favour of a new online service that followed Martha Lane Fox's recommendations of "putting digital first".

While Directgov came under fire for the number of TV adverts released that promoted the public services site, GOV.UK - in contrast - has had none.

Instead, the Cabinet Office has mainly been relying on short announcements from the Government Digital Services team on social media sites such as Twitter to get the message across that Directgov was about to be permanently closed down and replaced.

In mid-September, a banner appeared on the Directgov site that pointed out that it would no longer be active as of, well, today. Maude has long claimed that GOV.UK will save taxpayer money. He repeated that assertion on Wednesday morning:

GOV.UK is focused on the needs of users, not the needs of government. It has been planned, written, organised and designed around what users need to get done, not around the ways government want them to do it – providing only the content they need and nothing superfluous. Not only is the result simpler, clearer and faster for users, it will also cost taxpayers up to £70m less per year than the services it replaces. We anticipate further substantial savings as more departments and agencies move on to the GOV.UK platform.

Within months of the Tory-led Coalition being formed in 2010, Lane Fox started her campaign to get more people in Blighty to use the interwebs. At the time, it was estimated that some 9 million taxpayers had never been online. That figure had apparently fallen to about 8.2 million as of April this year.

The Cabinet Office is clearly hoping for a smooth transition over to the new service, which has recently started to look a lot more like its predecessor.

But it will be interesting to see, now that GOV.UK is the port of call for anyone wanting to access Britain's public services online, if awareness of the site exists outside of the media/London/luvvie Twitter bubble.

As for Directgov's presence across social networks and video-sharing sites, The Register was told:

The [Directgov] Facebook and YouTube accounts will be 'frozen', but not deleted, to prevent misuse of the name and brand, and in case users are still searching for them. There will be a clear message to users, saying that Directgov has been closed down, and signposting them to GOV.UK.

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