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Martha Lane Fox calls for ‘revolution’ in online government services

Kathleen Hall

Digital champion Martha Lane Fox has published a report calling for a centralised government internet address to replace 750 websites.

In a review of the Directgov website entitled "Revolution not evolution", she recommended an overhaul of separate government websites to be replaced by a single internet "front door" to public services on the web.

The key proposals include a new central commissioning team to take responsibility for the government's sites, which should publish content on a single government website. Departments should stop publishing to their own websites, and instead produce only content commissioned by this central commissioning team, she said.

Commenting on the report, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the current system is "inconvenient, expensive, wasteful and ridiculous, and it cannot continue."

Mark Flanagan, former Downing Street head of digital and strategic communications, said a single centralised site would be a more efficient system. "Everyone accepts that government news and messaging aimed at print and broadcast should be controlled from Number 10, so why not online too?"

This would save money in back-end systems and hosting and reduce government costs in public service transactions by hundreds of millions of pounds a year, he added.

Recommendations in the Martha Lane Fox report

  • Make Directgov the government front end for all departments' transactional online services to citizens and business, with the teeth to mandate cross-government solutions, set standards and force departments to improve citizens' experience of key transactions.
  • Make Directgov a wholesaler as well as the retail shop front for government services and content by mandating the development and opening up of application programme interfaces (APIs) to third parties.
  • Change the model of government online publishing, by putting a new central team in Cabinet Office in absolute control of the overall user experience across all digital channels, commissioning all government online information from other departments.
  • Appoint a new CEO for digital in the Cabinet Office with absolute authority over the user experience across all government online services (websites and APIs) and the power to direct all government online spending.

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