The UK Government may a divided entity, with the Liberal and Conservative coalition putting on a brave, united face for the sceptical public, but its latest Alphagov initiative is striving to create a genuine unified presence…online, at least.
You’ll no doubt agree that finding correct and current public information can be a challenge at times. Where exactly do you go to find public holiday information? How do you go about arranging a tax rebate, or discovering whether you’re qualified to drive a mini-bus?
The Government has hundreds of different websites, from the DVLA to HMRC, which is why any search you’re likely to make will probably begin in Google. From here, you may be directed to an official Government portal, or a third party website who just happens to have found its way to number-one spot for your search terms.
And this is why the Government is attempting to centralise all its information within a single domain. The Alphagov.co.uk website officially launches today, and in its introductory gambit, it says:
“Alpha.gov.uk is an experimental prototype of a single UK Government website. It aims to be as simple as possible, and to place the needs of citizens first.”
The website is very much in prototype mode, and there are still a lot of information gaps. But that’s to be expected, given the project has only been in development for around three months. And it seems those responsible for the website have somewhat of a sense of humour too, given its comical 404 page – and whilst it’s still in this early development stage, you can perhaps expect to see that a fair bit.
The new website is being set-up, apparently, in a direct response to Martha Lane Fox’s review of the Government’s digital presence. In her report, she outlined the need for a digital revolution across the Government’s online offering. There is already an Alphagov blog and Twitter account.
Users of the site are asked to set their location in the first instance, and then are invited to search the website with keywords.
This is a definitely a step in the right direction for the Government in terms of its online services. But it needs to really work on this and it can’t be a half-hearted effort that is suddenly forgotten about six months down the line, something that many people with be thinking.
A digital Britain needs a digital Government, and we’ll be keeping tabs on how this website progresses over the coming months.