13 july 2007

Snagged up in the web? New report on how the government is using the internet

A new report on whether the UK government's own websites are effective was published by the UK National Audit Office (NAO) on 13 July, written and researched by a team from the University's Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and the LSE Public Policy Group (London School of Economics and Political Science). The report to parliament is entitled 'Government on the internet: progress in delivering information services online?'

It looked at the progress made by government in delivering services and information online since the NAO last reported in 2002. The researchers found that: government web sites tend to be text heavy and complex to understand and to navigate; many agencies have little information about how much online provision of services costs; and most departments lack sufficient information about who is using their sites and how they are being used.

The study reports a number of areas where departments and agencies could improve value for money in the provision of online information and services. Government organisations spend some £208 million on websites each year.

On a more positive note, however, usage of the main government websites has risen over time and some sites are widely and repeatedly used, for example 78 per cent of Jobcentre Plus online service users visited its sites at least once a week.

The team was led by Professor Helen Margetts from the OII and Professor Patrick Dunleavy of LSE. Professor Margetts said: 'There is great potential for government organisations to use the internet imaginatively, for example to identify what people want to do on line. That way, services can be designed around the citizen and citizens can interact with government using the type of applications they use in everyday life.'