Last week I wrote about the surprisingly rich, if rather drab, Parliament Web site. As I noted, the site performs an important function by helping to make the political process in the UK more transparent. But in a sense, the most important thing about the site is its existence: few people outside the world of politics or academia are likely to spend much time perusing its contents.
Unfortunately, the best government site for the rest of us, the wonderful (and aptly-named) www.open.gov.uk was unceremoniously shut down some while back, and replaced with the rather average ukonline.gov.uk . Happily, the real heart of the Government's online activity is to be found at the Office of the E-Envoy. For a good indication of just how savvy the site is, take a look at the underlying code, which in this case is clean and effective.
There is a FAQ and links to various important-sounding e-people who are involved with the Office of the E-Envoy's activities, including the e-envoy Andrew Pinder, the e-minister Patricia Hewitt, the minister of state for e-commerce and competitiveness Stephen Timms, departmental e-ministers and not forgetting the splendidly-named e-champions.
Working out who is doing what is a bit more complicated - the site seems to be infected with a typical civil service love of detail to the point of dizziness, with nested Web pages leading to yet more nested Web pages until more is definitely less.
The Office of the E-Envoy has two main groups, one for policy and one for delivery. The policy group has three sub-groups: e-government, e-economy, and e-communications. The last of these seems to be one of the guilty parties as far as the ukonline.gov.uk site is concerned.
Although companies will be affected by many of these activities, navigating your way through these pages with their sub-pages and links can be a real chore. For most business users, a far more efficient route for finding out just what the Government is up to and how it is likely to affect e-commerce is to cut straight to the real wealth of documents on offer at the site.
There are reports, including monthly reports to the prime minister, and two annual reports on online activity.
Also available are older reports, including one of the first from 1999. There are consultation papers and framework policies such as the important e-government interoperability framework, as well as guidance and guidelines.
Finally, one area of the e-envoy's site that is well-worth browsing is the page linking to many fascinating statistics relating to e-commerce.