Upgrade planned for UK Online

Whitehall is overhauling the UK Online portal to make it easier for people to access government information via the internet.

Whitehall is overhauling the UK Online portal to make it easier for people to access government information via the internet.

The move follows an independent review of government communications conducted by Guardian Media Group chairman Bob Phillis, which warned that UK Online falls far short of providing a single site for all government services.

The report, which was commissioned by Cabinet Office minister Douglas Alexander, said that individuals find information on local public services most valuable, as opposed to information from government departments. Individual departments’ websites should only be "visible" on the site when it makes sense for the user, it added.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, secretary of state for trade and industry Patricia Hewitt confirmed that UK Online would be upgraded to help resolve these problems. "The first steps will be taken towards the end of February with an enhanced version of UK Online," she said.

E-envoy Andrew Pinder said he hoped UK Online will become more of a "destination" like the BBC’s website, where a range of information is collated on one site. UK Online's existing portal fulfils the role of a "hub" for other government websites.

The UK Online citizen portal went live in December 2000 as a means of guiding users through more than 1,000 government websites. However, the government now has a fight on its hands to ensure that the public uses the electronic services being rolled out across the public sector.

Last year, junior minister Christopher Leslie warned that people in the UK are not engaging with government as readily as they buy or bank online. In 2002, an international benchmarking report from Booz Allen Hamilton found that the UK lagged behind its competitors in getting citizens to use online services.

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