A terse joint statement said: "Although the original negotiations have ended, BT and the Cabinet Office are presently reviewing the best way forward for the portal. This includes evaluating an alternative relationship between BT and ukonline.gov.uk. This will cause no disruption to the UK Online service."
BT was chosen to develop and run UK Online in April 2000. The original contract to run the site until July 2001 was extended for one month to allow further negotiations.
The E-Envoy's department may now appoint an alternative supplier or bring the project management in-house under the team that runs the Government Gateway.
John Ludlam, web resource manager for the e-centre, the UK e-business association, was not surprised that BT lost the contract.
"UK Online is a completely inflexible site," said Ludlam. "BT was using it as a showpiece for a move online but it was not interested in making the effort to create a Web site that would attract citizens and businesses online. Part of its goal was to promote e-transactions, but anyone using it would soon be put off doing anything online."
"The government must not hook up with another big media partner," added Ludlam. "A specialist Web site company would do a much better job, or the whole project should be handled by the government Gateway team."
Mary Wintershausen, an e-government consultant for Socitm, the local authority IT directors' organisation, told CW360 that new competition for the UK Online contract would be good for e-government services. "Local government has benefited greatly from having a very competitive environment for its IT contracts. Competition is always good news," she said.