Enterprise -> Public Sector
By: Peter Abrahams, Practice Leader - Accessibility and Usability, Bloor Research
Published: 8th December 2010
Copyright Bloor Research © 2010
In October, Martha Lane Fox, UK Digital Champion, wrote to Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, with the results of a strategic review of DirectGov he had commissioned.
I enclose some short excerpts from her letter below.
The letter and Francis Maude's positive response are well worth reading and can be found at the Cabinet Office Newroom http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2010/101122-defaultdigital.aspx.
The major thrust of the recommendations is "to improve citizens' experience of key transactions". I understand this to mean that usability and accessibility need to be improved. The need for improvements in accessibility were inadvertently highlighted when the report was first published on the web as an inaccessible PDF file. When I reported this error to the webmaster the response was a rapid 'mea culpa' and an agreement to resolve it as soon as possible.
In general I agree with the suggestions in the report as it suggests ways of:
The simple answer to all of this is to take the hundreds of existing government websites and centralise them under the DirectGov banner. In the process provision, control and technology could all be centralised and simplified.
I suspect that reducing the number of websites is certain to improve the services. However, I have seen many reorganisations in my business life, and I have always been struck by the fact that the proponent of the reorganisation always explains the benefits that will accrue but never seems to consider what may, or will, get broken in the process. I believe what is likely to get broken is the ability of individual parts of the government to react quickly to changes in circumstance or opportunities. The new structure will be big, inevitably bureaucratic, and liable to stifle innovation.
The intention of the new structure is to enable a citizen to go to one place whatever the issue. It is not clear exactly how wide the net would be, for example would it include the NHS, Local Government, the Citizens Advice Bureau or the remaining Quangos, etc. If it does then the structure is gargantuan, if it does not then it cannot meet all the requirements of the citizen.
Getting the balance right between centralised organisation and control, and flexibility for the departments, is going to be the major challenge for the new CEO for Digital (see recommendation 4 below).
I will watch the progress with interest and report back on a regular basis.
Extract from Martha's Letter:
"You asked me to oversee a strategic review of Directgov and to report to you by the end of September. I have undertaken this review in the context of my wider remit as UK Digital Champion which includes offering advice on "how efficiencies can best be realised through the online delivery of public services." This means that I have not reviewed Directgov in isolation but as part of how the government can use the Internet both to communicate and interact better with citizens and to deliver significant efficiency savings from channel shift. This letter sets out my findings and key recommendations.
Summary of Key Recommendations
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