Government releases beta test version of website

The Government Digital Service has released the latest test version of its website, intended to be the future of online public services.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has released the latest test version of its website, intended to become a single domain for online public services that will replace hundreds of departmental sites.

The Cabinet Office said the £1.7m beta project could lead to savings of £50m per year by removing costs associated with software licences and infrastructure investment.

The beta version will concentrate on 700 high-volume areas of citizen needs such as information on travel, passport services and jobs. The site was built using open source software, HTML5 code and is currently hosted on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud, but will use services from the G-Cloud framework once it is out this month.

By simplifying government information it is hoped that the number of failed online transactions will be reduced by 20%. The next move for GDS will be to develop the transaction layer of to enable the government to move forward with its “digital by default” agenda.

Martha Lane Fox, who recommended the release of a single government domain as a key move in digitising public services, said, "The beta release of is a fantastic milestone in this government’s ambition to become a digital world leader and dramatically change the focus of public service delivery onto the end user.”

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said, “Our approach is changing. IT needs to be commissioned or rented, rather than procured in huge, expensive contracts of long duration. We are embracing new, cloud-based start-ups and enterprise companies – this will bring benefits for small and medium-sized enterprises here in the UK and so contribute to growth.”

The website will eventually replace Directgov, the current portal used for accessing many – but not all – citizen-facing online public services.

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