Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Government Gateway is 100

A quiet post in the comments sections below tells me that the Government Gateway enabled its 100th service yesterday. That's a big deal. Big because 100 is a nice round number in our counting system (Dan will doubtless comment) and big because it's been far harder than anyone ever thought it could be. Growth in 2005 has largely been down to enabling local authority transactional services - payments as well as form filling. It's taken a lot of hard work by people from all over government and the private sector to make this happen - whether it was vendors (Microsoft, Sun, Software AG, EDS, CapGemini, Atos, Cable and Wireless, Vizuri, Nfocus and a dozen others), contractors (you know who you are), Cabinet Office civil servants (you certainly know who you are) and then the departments and LAs that have plugged in, often with their own vendors, partners and contractors alongside them. Volumes are still not where I thought they would be - despite their being over 7.5 million registered users, the bulk are accessing self assessment, PAYE and so on (I'll let someone else say and "defrauding the tax credits system" - but that's not an internet issue as far as I can see). As another comment - and a particularly erudite one - says, "egov is missing a trick, the vast majority are not yet ready for services". I'm not sure I agree with that, but plainly the trick has been missed because people are not using them. I think it's because the services are not bundled in a way that makes them attractive to use. Making a congestion charge payment via text is an attractive option because it beats all the other ways. And, as to building a search engine instead of the gateway. We did "build" a search engine - a couple of times. But searching 3,500 government sites that are architected differently, don't use the same names for the same things, frequently duplicate data, have out of date data and so on, made it hard to find the right answers. That is, I think, why direct.gov got out of the pan-government search business. Google does it so much better. Anyway, happy 100th service. My congratulations to all of eDt, then and now.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:52 am

    Interesting that success is still being measured in the number of services online - so what was the 100th service, the Gateway web site makes not mention of it - it was last updated with "What's New" in March 05 and the list of services available on Gateway looks no way near 100 - sounds like people's definition of what a service is and what is really a useable service by the public are something different - also, you say 7.5 million people registered on Gateway - sounds a little far feteched to think that over 7m people have logged onto Gateway and registered and then the uptake of services is so poor - typical government dept thinking to use stats such as number of services and number of registered users to demonstrate some measure of success - why not publish how many people are actually enrolled for each service and how many transactions go through each service on a monthly basis - bring real visibility to the success of Gateway

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  2. Anonymous11:56 am

    just because something is difficult to do, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it - search is the killer application and direct.gov have chickened out of its responsibility by not confronting and solving the problem - instead we just get a website with aggregated content - where's the value to the user !!! Google are now specialising in vertical markets for search - why does Direct.gov not get into bed with them and either licence the technology or work with them to build high quality search results for the user !!?

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  3. just because something is difficult doesn't mean you should't do it is right. you're on a rant and a roll about this search thing. i'm not arguing. but plainly you're not keeping up with the story. we tried to do a deal with google several times and couldn't make the numbers work. but having google search government on the web doesn't necessarily fix things unless you do it right all across government - e.g. what's the nearest dump to where you live? you won't find that from your LA website. you might find it from google local if everything was set up right. governments generally, and the uk specifically, need fewer websites, not more. the crazy number of sites, domain names and random content is part of the problem. consolidation plus good search is certainly part of the answer.

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