Sunday, November 30, 2003

Time for an Internet Green Cross Code

Much in the last few months has diverted my thoughts to the inherent lack of education in our computer-using population on the risks inherent in powering up their PC of a morning. The viruses, the spam, the popups, the trojan horses, the ads for viagra (and worse), the files to download that carry out who knows what attaks in the future. I met John Thompson, CEO of Symantec, last week. His job is to frighten people, and he does an amazing job. He quotes stats like, "Blaster infected 90% of its targets in the first 15 minutes", notes that recent phishing exploits have been replicated from over 8,000 hosts (versus a few dozen or hundred in the previous generation), or that pretty soon he expects a "Day Zero" attack - a piece of code that exploits an unknown vulnerability, bringing us all to our system knees. Simon Moores has been on this page for a while, and reinforced his position with this piece recently. Others are doubtless there too, but what to do? Well, my vote is that it's time to take us back to our childhood. To the time when a basic part of our education was the "Green Cross Code" (populated by Dave Prowse, he of Darth Vader (in)fame). People in the office reminded me this week as I waffled on about the idea that I might have to talk about the "Tufty Club" to ensure that some people tuned in to what I was on about. The Green Cross Code is still alive and well in the UK, via the hedgehogs website. Tracking down the Tufty Club is hard, and it's easier to find stuff like this than to find any real reference. A Green Cross Code for the Internet age, adopted by equipment vendors, ISPs, government, the broadcasters, key magazines, newspapers and backed by online and offline press would help educate people on what to do. It would bring forward the day when broadband users get firewalls with their equipment, the day when ISPs kill spam on both inbound and outbound services, the day when service providers nail viruses before they have a chance to replicate. It might also bring forward the day when rogue equipment is quarantined, before it has a chance to infect the rest of the world - after all, we treated SARS that way - what's the difference between that and a Day Zero virus that will plague the Internet? More soon.

Catchup

A bit of a bulk post today, to make up for missing pretty much all of the last week. I thought I'd link, with a comment, to the stories I saw that were interesting. I'm still writing up my trip notes and also my Internet Green Cross Code idea and I will post those as soon as I get a chance. Mike Cross has been on form in the last few weeks, writing about the NHS' website, which gets a short domain name as it's spared the need for .gov in its title. NHS.uk has been around for a while, but this is a relaunched version. When I first saw the patient waiting times application on the site, I really though that there was a killer app in hiding. Mike says the site gets 450,000 visitors a month (roughly what each of the largest government websites gets: IR, ukonline etc, depending on peaks and whatnot). What I don't know, of course, is how many of these visitors are hopping from site to site, or how many we might persuade to hop if we could figure out the path that they were taking through government sites. That's a problem for another day. Mike also wrote about Jo Wright and her plans for IT in Criminal Justice. A strange piece that seems to major on the fact that Jo is a she, in the overly male dominated world of CJ. Perhaps the overly "pale, male and stale" world, as Rene Carayol would probably put it. I bumped into Rene this week at Somerset House - he was on fine form as always, delivering a memorable speech on people and process. With the accent on the former. Finally, nearer to home, Mike wrote two pieces this week - an almost comic piece on True North that made for a good read - I'm still picturing the disk drives whirring in the advent of Whitehall becoming radioactive sludge (and wondering if anyone will want to file their tax return then). News that gets the story out on True North is always good - there's a lot in there and Mike gets most of it across, even getting DotP into the story. There's also a story on why True North is called True North and the trouble that occurred because of it, but perhaps for another day. The second piece from Mike this week covered the difficulty of getting small traders to file VAT online. A recent NAO report considers the issue at some length and votes in favour of some element of compulsion - if anything, perhaps a dangerous place to be. Why? Well, if services are good, people will use them. If people have to use them, there's no incentive for the service to be good. Ask Lastminute how much of their budget goes on tweaking and updating the site to make sure that it works the way their customer base wants to. Compulsion has already been advocated as a route for small businesses to be encouraged to carry out PAYE online, via the Carter report, and so, over the next few years (all the way to 2010 I think), businesses will gradually file online (doubtless aided by accountants and payroll bureau who can, and should, reduce the load). So if they're doing PAYE, they can just as easily do VAT, right? Broadly true I imagine. But perhaps not as straightforward as that. Certainly I see no reason why accountants shouldn't be handling things online now - there are systems in place, websites that will handle it and I am sure that most accountants use PCs to run their own businesses, so why not? For small traders, it may be another thing - and there may have to be more incentives in place to smooth the way. But we're used to compulsion anyway, aren't we, whether it's overt or covert. Who remembers the switch from analogue mobile phones to digital ones? Probably noone - but we were subtly moved from one to the other by the providers. Digital TV is another such example. We're being slowly moved that way and, when there are just a few analogues left, the move will be made compulsory. Congestion charge? If you want to opt out, don't travel. But it's not the only story in town. There is no substitute for devising an easy to use service that is bundled around other services, provides incentives (longer to pay, discounts, faster turnaround times etc - after all, the PM announced this week that we're no longer a one size fits all business), is easy to find (linked to from all of the places you'd expect, with good PR from associated press) and just plain works. Because if it doesn't work, noone will want to use it ... and then we're in the place that Mike also wrote about ... purgatory. Kable published a lengthy non-story on e-voting and whether it will or won't go ahead. Stranger things have been published, but not in the world of e-voting I expect. Lots of quotes from people who say it is 60/40, a quote from ODPM stating commitment ... and something about Gibraltar being brought into the South West region. Who knows? As someone says, if we don't do it, we'll go backwards. Just like with concorde? Madder than Mad McMad, the maddest person on the planet Mad, Ian Kearns takes aim at government policy on e-government and intermediaries and says that we should just pay them to take care of it all for us. The crucial line is "Provide the Office of the e-Envoy, or whichever body is subsequently tasked with driving this policy through, with sufficient powers to insist on and enforce departmental collaboration and compliance". Of course, if that was in place (for this or any other thing), then life would be easier all round ... Seoul was ranked top for e-government recently too. I was invited out there recently for a conference, scheduled for mid-December, but sadly had to turn it down. I really wanted to go too - especially as the email invitation was addressed to "Dear President Mather". Who would have thought promotion could come so soon? And finally ... there was this piece from the Information Warfare (?!) site ... on the new relationship between government and citizen, made possible only by online government. It's enlivened by quotes like this: "The federal government has created more than 20,000 Web sites, so information can be hard to find. Some information remains difficult to locate because some agencies remain focused on posting their priorities rather than the services their customers demand." and "We need more effective leadership and management. We need to develop a stronger "citizen-as-customer" focus. We need more reliable software and hardware. We need more sophisticated technical expertise." and this whopper "Indeed, with the advent of lightning-speed communications enabled by the Internet, the networked world is creating new demands on government services from consumers - demands that require immediate response. With the ability for citizens to e-mail and communicate with federal agencies directly, Congress and the administration must efficiently manage the federal government by providing the resources to make sure the government can deal with new demands" Ummmm... Enough for now. My head's full of things I want to talk about, it's just a problem of finding the time right now. Bear with me.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Content Event - Massive success

Our event this week - "Risks and Rewards of Content Management" - looks to have been a great success. We sized it at 100 people, had 115 register and 114 show up which, with the speakers and the folks from eDt there to make sure it went smoothly meant the auditorium was full to busting. All the speakers were great, but it was clear that Gerry McGovern (of GerryMcGovern.com fame, perhaps even notoriety now) and Pete Clifton (from the BBC) were both incredibly hard acts to follow. I've got some notes of the great lines of the day, but my favourites, from Gerry, were: "Don't write the Santa Claus RFP (accompanied by a picture of a jolly old man in a Santa suit) ... you know, the one that goes "Dear Santa, please, please, please can I have .... (list 1001 "features") ... for Xmas." This quote became a bit of a theme through the day, with several people (including the vendor people there) referring to it and, better still, emphatically agreeing with it. and "The hippy period of the web is over. In the 60s we did drugs, in the 90s we did java. Get over it." There were also some great quotes from Pete Clifton, but they should perhaps stay unprinted. I had a great day, I hope that the feedback from the audience will echo that. The event went very smoothly, thanks to a great location (you should all consider the British Museum if you're looking for an event location), professional staff, great vision (from Steve), great logistics (from DWA media), great organisation (from Ling) and fabulous support from the rest of the team.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Ghostrider ... the content event is full

Steve has let me know that the content management event we have scheduled for Wednesday is full ... great news given we're a day or so away. If you really want in, contact Steve directly via his e-envoy mail address and he'll see what he can, but no promises. I'll be chairing the day which is wonderful - no lines to learn and I get a front row seat to watch a lot of great speakers in action. Meanwhile I've been away for a week. I used the time to catch up with a lot of very clever people who briefed me on what next, when next, how next and where next for a lot of technology solutions; we also talked a lot about why not for certain things, which was refreshing. I'm getting my ideas together now for an internal briefing and will endeavour to post here later in the week, although I'm out for the next 3 days or so with one conference or another. Finally, did you catch BillG's speech at Comdex? After SPOT watches/fridge magnets, tablet PCs and whatnot in the last few years, what did he use this one to launch? A new version of SMS (2003 for some reason) and also a new version of the ISA firewall (2004, which makes more sense)! This is a big deal ... Bill launching basic security items that no home/office/corporation should be without.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Clay Shirky

I don't have time this evening to talk about this site, but you really should take the time to visit and read as many of Clay's articles as you can. I realise how little a dent I'm making in the world when I come across sites like this. This week's piece on the Semantic Web is just great.

Content Management - the good, the bad and the ugly, learn here

The Office of the e-Envoy is running an all day seminar on content management on November 26th at the British Museum. It's open to anyone in the public sector - local, central, agency, NDPB, NHS, MOD and any other TLA or FLA you can come up with. The day is cost free provided that you show up - if you book to come and then no show, we will bill you enough to make you regret not showing (or £99, whichever is the greater). It promises to be a full and interesting day. I'll be hosting (but I promise not to talk for long) and we have Andrew Pinder, e-envoy, opening the day, followed by Gerry McGovern on the "State of Content Management". Gerry is a terrific writer who clearly has a passion for doing it right and is unafraid to say what he means. As his site says, "Content first, technology second", or as I've said more than a few times, "Content management is something that you do, not something that you buy". I'm looking forward to hearing Gerry speak on this for the first time. We've also got Pete Clifton, the editor of BBC News Online (if anyone knows about how to manage content, it will be him); a couple of Content Management software suppliers will also talk about the issues in migrating to managed content (and not about products, I promise) and there will be other people from in and around government talking about the lessons learnt, including people from the Planning Portal team, UFI and the COI. The day will wrap up with open Q&A with several of the speakers. This is a big and exciting day for us and I'm very pleased that we're able to run such an event. If you've been reading this site for long, you'll know that I have some strong personal views about the state of content management in governments and this is the first chance we've had to collect enough of the right people in one place to help you plan for the issues that you will certainly come across. Places will be very limited, so if you want to come, visit this site or contact Steve Lawrence using the email address on the registration page. I've promised Steve I'll leave this up for a few days so that everyone gets a chance to see it ... what I'll do though is repost it to the top of the page if I write some new posts, so there might be several copies of it on the site.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Content System Mis-Management

I've come across a few requests for bids to deliver content management systems recently. It's a topical thing to look at what people are asking for and understand the rolling needs of the buying community. Many things have struck me as odd or out of place, but one thing particularly perhaps shows the biggest misunderstanding of what such a system is all about. My thinking on CMSs is that they separate out the "Content" from the "Management" - i.e. editors can freely create information and publish it knowing that once it's on the web it will work in any browser on any platform because the skilled techies have created style sheets that will correctly format the information (whether text or graphics) no matter on what it's presented. So, when I visit ukonline.gov.uk using a Mac and Firebird, or a PC running Netscape, or a Sony P800 mobile phone using the inbuilt browser, or an Ipaq, it renders differently each time so as to suit the device and the way it works. Yet many bids that I have seen recently have requested all of that capability and then, as an extra, the ability to insert home grown HTML into the middle of a page, or many pages. How would that work? Who would do the QA to make sure that the page rendered properly, what would happen when a new browser came out, what about accessibility rules? It's just content mis-management to do that.

Personalisation is expensive! Not worth it! Doesn't result in more sales! Wastes money!

A few weeks ago, Jupiter Research published a well-reported paper on "personalisation". It suggests that companies would be better served if they concentrated on the basics - making the site easy to navigate and search - rather than wasting money seeking the myth of personalisation. For instance: "Given flexible, usable navigation and search, Web site visitors will be more satisfied with their experiences and will find fewer barriers to the profitable behaviour sought by site operators. In fact, good navigation can replace personalisation in most cases." A more intriguing point was: "More than 25 percent of consumers surveyed by Jupiter said they avoided Web site customisation because of concerns that marketers would misuse the information. A similar proportion avoided registering with a Web site, for the same reasons" An exec at Broadvision responds: "Anything can be done badly and expensively. Just because there are some examples that people have invested time and money in the wrong area, that shouldn't discredit personalisation as a whole. People should do a sensible evaluation of what's going to work best for them and their customers." There are some important lessons here for anyone doing website publishing, but especially for governments. First, unless the basics are right, there is no point pursuing more advanced features. Common sense? I'd like to think so but I'm not convinced that this has been well internalised in many organisations. So many sites are poorly constructued, lack the information needed, have search engines hidden below the home page and fail to signpost content that the basics clearly aren't in place. Let me put it this way, if the first box you saw on the Amazon.com home page wasn't "search our shops", right in the middle of the screen, how long would you spend hunting for it? If the tabs for DVDs, Photo, Books etc were hidden or changed depending on where you were in the site, would you persist? I doubt that you would. Finding the products that you want is simple on Amazon - search, tabs and well structured navigation. I spent 15 minutes on it today and spent nearly £100 - saving about £35 against high street prices (and about 2-3 hours on top). What I haven't figured out is why everyone doesn't shop this way. Maybe it's because many purchases are impulse buys, urgent purchases (i.e. "I need it now"), or maybe people still don't trust the Amazon model - but if you can buy a video game for £30 instead of £40 and only wait a couple of days for delivery, wouldn't you do that 9 times out of 10? Once you're past the basics what more would you look for? I think Amazon presents a good case study still. Amazon offers a selection of products that it thinks you should buy based on what you have bought in the past. I use Amazon regularly, not just for me, but for other people that I want to get presents for. Personalisation in this instance therefore doesn't seem to do much good. For instance, today's top recommendation for me is Harry Potter 5 - on the basis that a year ago or so I bought my goddaughter the previous 4. No use to me - or at least, not at the top of the list of things I am looking for. The site gets me interested though about 2 times out of 10 - and that might be enough to trigger one purchase that I otherwise would not have made. How much does it cost Amazon to do that? I have no idea, but I can imagine that it is no longer a core area of where Amazon spend money on development. To look at another case study, how about banking? Personalisation makes a lot of sense here - how could it be any other way? After all, you only want to look at your own bank account; you likely want to make payments to the same set of people over and over again (family, the electricity co, the gas company, your stock broker etc); you might trade stocks or use a credit card from the same bank ... and that's all options you'd want to see on your start up page surely? But what of personalisation in the public sector? How about the in the offline world first? Thirty or more years ago when council houses were being built all over the UK, they were kept deliberately identical, right down to the colour of the paint on the front door. This made it simple for the council to keep them in order (put aside your political judgements on whether they did or didn't do that) - bulk purchase of paint, workmen who could move from house to house and fix things without having to worry about what had changed etc. The day that people bought their own house (starting in the early 80s I think) from the council, I bet the first thing that they did was to paint the front door - a touch of personalisation. So people want things "their own way". Today it's mobile phone ringtones, mobile phone cases and whatnot. Some degree of personalisation differentiates you from everyone else. Just as when you buy a car, unless you're in a very select market, you know that it's mass produced and rolls off an assembly line once every 15 minutes or whatever, but you also know that you've tuned the car the way you want it: a particular stereo, 18" alloy wheels, a metallic paint etc. So why shouldn't it be any different in the web world? Why should things on every page look just the way the designer wants them to, no matter how inconvenient that is for me? What if I visited a government website and I'd just paid my tax for the year? Would I want a pop up reminder saying that it was time to pay tax? No. If I had just registered for child benefit, wouldn't I want the website to talk to me about the new Child Trust Fund that was launching in a while? And, likewise, if I'd never registered for child benefit and had never looked at a page that talked about children, would I ever want to know that it was even possible to register online? I think the case for personalisation is clear. The issue is that it is only a step to take once the basics are done - once you have a highly navigable site that is content rich and has the information that people need - then, and only then, can we talk personalisation ... I'm not sure we're ready for that yet. I'm certain, though, that if it costs 4 times as much to implement and operate such a site, then we need to be absolutely sure that we're ready and that we know how it's going to be done. Oh, and then we'd do it on one site only - one that had all of the content and was proven capable of attracting high volumes of traffic because then we'd be able to tune it over many iterations to ensure that the right kind of personalisation was applied ... so as not to confuse or overwhelm people. Lastly, because governments are who they are, careful thought must be applied to what kind of data is used to do the personalisation - that is, what items, where they come from and what conclusions are drawn from those items. I read somewhere, can't remember where, that on a list of 10 companies, government's trust rating is somewhere near the bottom ... and right up the top was Tesco (or Sainsbury's or some such). So early on, personalisation is driven by what people do whilst on the site, subtly, in the background perhaps, coupled with the "people who looked at that also looked at this" algorithms. Once trust is obtained, we can ask for data and, in the longer term, seek data from elsewhere that will help the experience - for instance, if we know that Child Benefit has been applied for, but not Child Tax Credit, wouldn't it make sense to use that knowledge to make the claim? If you were given the right to anyway. So much done, so much still to do.

Oystermail

Strange mail from the Oyster people today. They're supposed to send me a reminder a few days before my "ticket" expires ... but this is the text that I was actually sent: email.lapsed.user.headeremail.lapsed.user.footer Guess they're still in beta mode really. Nothing like testing before you go live.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Karl Marx and Alan Mather

Simon Moores, over at Zentelligence, is convincing the Middle East to do moore e-government. I've appeared alongside all sorts of people in my past, but never Karl Marx. Still, beats John L's description of me in the black BMW I guess.

Remarkable Wales

A valiant attempt by Wales. Magic bit of rugby that had New Zealand on the ropes. Were it not for a very dodgy forward pass 1/2 way through the second half that gave New Zealand the lead, it could have been a different result. Next week's game against England certainly looks to be fun - Wales will be well rested and able to bring some new players into the game, England ... well, let's see what the game brings. I don't think it will be a walkover for either side.

More on websites, e-government and MySociety

Bill Thompson vents his frustrations on the Beeb's website. I'm not entirely sure how he went from "e-government isn't working" to "we can solve it ourselves by using mysociety", but he's been right before so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Bill mentions the Inland Revenue's recent letter to many taxpayers inviting them to send their return in over the Internet - although he'd sent it in a couple of months before. I've seen the note that went out - it's a simple, play by play set of instructions about how to do it - and I guess Bill realises that constructing such a mailing is a time consuming business and that, just like magazine publishing in the dead tree world, things start a long time before publication date - and that means that some people get things that they shouldn't get. It's the same reason why BT say "if you've paid your bill in the last x days, please ignore this letter". So, cheap shot Bill. Better to focus on the main thrust of your piece.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

No more US Government Gateway

GCN says its no more centralised authentication for the USA. How weird is that? The new CIO says E-Authentication is moving in a new technical direction that is not centered around the development of a gateway," said Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for e-government and IT GCN also say, though, that there was a recent, scathing audit report (show me one that isn't) and some enquiries from lawmakers. I'll have to hunt that audit report down. And then there's this: “According to GAO, essential activities, such as developing authentication profiles for the other 24 initiatives, have not been completed,” Davis said. “GSA also eliminated a step in the acquisition process to award a new contract for the operational systems. This action could mean the GSA will miss an opportunity to explore other potential solutions for designing the gateway.” And, the audit folks say # Establish policies for consistency and interoperability among different authentication systems and develop technical standards # Finish defining user authentication requirements for the 24 other e-government projects. GSA said 12 have been completed # Deal with funding, security and privacy problems. GAO does not believe the development work has been mishandled, but the agency should take the time necessary, said John de Ferrari, an assistant director in GAO’s Office of Information Management Issues. Developing policy and achieving interoperability are GSA’s main hurdles, he said. The tone of the article leads one to think there were flaws in the handling of the project and it's not until that last paragraph that you get the message that the issue is where it always has been with online government - interoperability. I'm intrigued that the response to a difficult project is, apparently, to choose to decentralise it - an solve problems around consistency, interop, policy on authentication and funding, security and privacy (can you think of a longer, harder list?) 1001 times rather than once. That just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. These are just some of the hardest problems to face up to, and trying to think of a clean way forward is hard, brutally hard. Why would you pick a federated model to do that now? There will, in time, be federated models - one day Liberty, its successor or some other project of its kind, will make the difference that is needed, but it's unlikely to be anytime soon nor is it likely to be adopted in a security minded environment like government for much longer still. Of course, I would say that it should be done centrally, wouldn't I. In fact, I'll happily sell a Gateway to the US if they're interested - I have one that works (well, the UK government has one that works, it's not mine per se). In my musings on Enterprise Architecture which still aren't drawing to a close (there are one or two other things going on now that keep getting in the way), I've constructed a pyramid of things that need to be built or borrowed: there are some that you build only once, a few that you allow to be built several times and a few more still that you build many times. Right at the top of the pyramid, sitting on the capstone, is an authentication engine (closely followed by a web services broker for web services outside of the firewall).

Mixed views of .gov websites

If this week was also a week for online democracy stories, it was also a week for people to take a renewed interest in the state of .gov. Although the reports were negative they weren't quite as bad as I've seen in the past which might mean that progress has been made, that the writers have gone soft or that there's a move to encourage to exploit rather than discourage to destruction. The main pieces were two from Michael Cross in the Guardian, one titled "On a quest", the other his regular "Public Domain" Feature. The former was a brief review of a report published by Socitm (SocItToEm?) and the Citizens Advice Bureau (who published their own report on e-government issues some weeks ago and this report echos many of the same points). Kablenet also covered this report, in a similarly (relatively) upbeat tone. Some quotes that will put them all in context, first from Mike Cross: The survey is significant because it ... test[s] e-government from citizens' points of view ... [rather than by] agency [On disability benefit] ... the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ... won praise for clarity and forms available for completion online [But] the effort was marred by a notice at the foot of each page warning the site was likely to go out of date as legislation changed Local authorities did less well: only two of the 15 reviewed were able to point people to the DWP for benefit. But the bad news is The government has a double target for going online: by the end of 2005, all its services (where possible) must be available electronically and the most important must be heavily used. David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says the way electronic public services are designed make it unlikely the target will be achieved. Kablenet say The evidence from the research shows that government websites have some way to go before they will be able to fulfill citizens' needs for information and services in the areas tested, says Socitm. People using search engines are often taken to inappropriate websites if they use everyday language in their search terms. One of the interesting things done with these tests was that they were "subjective" tests. So many reports on government websites to date have said that they're slow or have HTML errors or don't cater for accessibility standards and so on (all of which are important, but second order) and this may be one of the few (first?) to say "ok, I've got this problem that I want government to take care of". The use of the Google search engine to help find the answer is also good - after all something like 85% of Internet searches are carried out from Google (either using its own site or through a rebadged instance of it). Earlier this year (April), using Google, I did some analysis on the mindshare of government sites, i.e. how well linked to by the outside world are they. For Google, the number and weight of links to any given page (or publication) are part of the key drivers that get the information bumped up the rankings. The data showed that government sites have fewer external links than many commercial sites, although I couldn't figure out the weighting of those links. Late last year, if not before, I also talked about the need to rationalise websites in government to make it easier to find specific content. Fewer sites hosting less duplicated content also leads to a better concentration of links, more targetted search findings and less navigational inconsistency. The UK's position on website proliferation and design is not unlike that of every country. Even those that have imposed rigid standards have many sites (Canada), just as those with highly centralised government (Dubai). Some countries are making progress anyway, although perhaps not the progress that might be made given a different web environment for government. Perhaps another way to look at this is that the public sector offline infrastructure has evolved to its present form over a long period - decades or possibly even centuries for some departments. Although there have been shifts in departmental structures here and there with one agency separating out some functions and merging them into another or a new agency being created to handle new functions, the overall structure (for any government in any country) has changed little - departments are in place to carry out functions and they do that. In many ways you could say that the offline structure of government works fine - after all, the country ticks over, tax is received, benefits are paid. Many people have learnt the modus operandi of government - they know which office renews their driving licence, where to get a new passport, how to claim benefit and where to send their tax cheque. But you could also say (and I would, have and will regularly do so in the future) that it doesn't work well enough and the technology that we have available today gives us a chance to pretend that we have something different online versus offline. Online doesn't have to be and shouldn't be the same as offline. The reason that public sector websites don't score well in surveys like this is because of the inevitable mismatch between "everyday language" and government-speak. The kind of words that people put into search engines aren't the kind of words that appear on government websites, especially if that search engine is a commercial one versus a public sector one. Simple english words put into a search engine rarely lock onto the right results. It's a rare talent to think of the kind of things people might ask for in search engines and then (a) ensure that those words are well situated in the government website and that (b) that they rank highly from within a total of thousands of websites. Consolidating the sites and reducing the amount of duplicated content, but that is no easy task. First, there are lots of sites that must be archived off, second auditing the content that is there and finding the best of the best and eliminating the rest is no simple task, but starting from scratch will take longer and cause confusion (because new content will overlap with old content and the "right" content might not be obvious to the reader). Once the plan to rationalise is underway, the editorial processes to create and manage the right content get underway - and again these are not simple. Writing everyday-readable content that navigates the legislation and steers the citizen or business where they need to get to is challenging initially. Keeping it going through successive editorial teams, changes in leadership, changes of policy and so on is a yet more dramatic challenge. It's all achievable and clearly work is progressing. Mike Cross even mentions the Online Government Store as a "coming soon" feature that will take us down this path in the UK. Sadly though, I think that there are enough surveys of this sort, enough articles of this type. The effect of the early ones was to shock a reaction, the later ones were post-anaesthetic - immunisation had taken place. Focusing in on "what to do" rather than inane comments about "it" not being achievable by 2005 will take us further forward. The list, for all governments, is simple: - Fewer websites not more. Kill 50 websites for every new domain name. - Less content not more. Delete five (or fifty, or five hundred) pages for every page you write. - Solve the top 50 questions that citizens ask ... and structure your content around those first. Then do the next 50 and the next. The people who know these questions are the ones that answer the phone in your call centres, the ones that write in to your agency and the ones that visit your offices for help; likewise, they visit accountants, advice bureau, charities and so on. - Test search engines to see how your site ranks - both from a mindshare side and for individual queries. - Impose rigorous discipline on use of "words" - plain speak. - Impose even more rigorous discipline on the structure of the content, including metadata so that it's easy to read - by people and by search engines.