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Phillis: More Money for Government Websites
20 January 2004

A hard-hitting report to the Prime Minister yesterday demanded a wholescale overhaul of websites across Whitehall, a fundamental reappraisal of how government connects with citizens online, and extra resources to go along with it.

The call forms part of a raft of proposals set out by a wide-reaching, major review of Government communications, led by Bob Phillis. It urges increased investment in websites to reflect their growing importance, but is highly critical of departments' efforts to date.

"Many sites are no more than a translation of existing paper-based systems and few offer transaction-based services or offer the public the ability to communicate directly with government", the report states. "This needs to change".

The Review also highlights duplicated effort and the lack of a co-ordinated approach towards government websites, expressing concern that despite massive expenditure, "the impact of such investment is diluted by a many-headed approach". It recommends an analysis be carried out of total government expenditure on web communication.

The Online Government Store, the Office of the e-Envoy's attempt to provide eGovernment services from a single point of entry, is endorsed by the report, which adds that the current UK Online citizen portal "falls a long way short". Furthermore, information on local public services should be given greater prominence and easily found, which, the Review notes, "would invert the usual pyramid of information offered by departments".

Commenting on the report, the e-Envoy Andrew Pinder outlined how the Government was taking this forward in the coming months, prior to the full launch of the OGS project. "We have substantial plans to extend the UK Online principle", he said. "Towards the end of February, we will have an enhanced version of UK Online, with some of the areas substantially enhanced, such as the life episodes section."

Other recommendations from the report include:

- Features such as chatrooms to allow visitors to communicate with departments should "feature frequently" across government websites
- Webcasting of proceedings of Westminster lobby briefings "as the technology allows" and full transcripts published "promptly" online, with government websites to make "all relevant background material available to anyone who wants it"
- The Government Information and Communications Service, a provider of electronic media teams to departments, to be disbanded
- Every government department to develop or review its communications strategy, including the use of e-communications.

Responding to the report, the Cabinet Office said it agreed on the need for greater use of electronic communications in order for Government to communicate with the public "in the widest possible way". It added that the Government "will look at how departments' web sites could be better co-ordinated and structured to encourage greater public participation in the development and communication of government policies."

Final Report of the Phillis Review of Government Communications
 (PDF - 133KB)

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