back to article Gov websites' value not at all clear despite trimming

The government has failed to routinely measure the benefits of its main portals - the Government Gateway, Directgov and - which together have cost £90.3m over the past three years, says the National Audit Office (NAO). In its report titled Digital Britain One: Shared infrastructure and services for government …


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  1. John Bond

    Website value assessment & EU cookie law

    It will be even harder for them to assess the value of those sites once they implement the spectacularly stupid EU cookie law that "we" agreed to!

    1. Citizen Kaned

      not really....

      you dont need cookies to track users. serverside code is much more effective and reliable.

  2. Citizen Kaned

    my experience

    from gov websites is pretty poor. duplicate info but slightly different (which do i believe?) and broken links.

    how the hell do they spend that much on websites?!?! are they coded by bill himself?!?!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm willing to bet...

    ... that DVLA, TV Licensing, et al, can give you a pretty good estimate of how much they save by transacting over the web.

    Money saved by burying DVLA inside


    Other benefits?

    They get that nice orange logo.

    So, why the supertanker strategy of (or whatever this week's build of is called)?

    The supposed justification is findability of gov services – coz, you know, navigating a megasite is always going to be easier than a quick Google

    Real justification - the centralising instinct, pure and simple`.

    It would be far better to provide approved open-source toolkits, pooled expertise, and club purchasing agreements. That way lies agility and cost-effectiveness.

    All it takes is a web team who'd rather do the job than build careers, and who will take the time to spell it out for the ministers

    1. Directgovmustdie


      Directgov was a power grab. A load of suits in Whitehall get to spend money on advertising while swallowing up cheaper, more useable websites. I work for a big government body as well and using Directgov is way more expensive than running our own website. All our decisions need to go through London suits.

  4. Anonymous Coward 15

    "found evidence of a persistent skills gap in government"

    Erm, that's because you outsourced it all.

  5. voice of unreason

    There is a point......

    The value of the centralising approach is not that it saves money on the website. But it becomes much easier to spot what things government doesn't need to be doing at all, or could be done by a couple of blokes in a shed.

    The DVLA: considered as a department, it's you-know a department or sumfink. Obviously delivers an important service, have to register cars etc, etc. But as a government sub-website?

    Now it becomes obvious that its functions are:

    1) Receives V5's and car-tax payment. Sends out info on car owners to police and other entitled parties [Hang on a sec, why sends out? Why not just a queryable DB?].

    2) Checks entitlement / banning for vehicle licenses - e.g. 2 year renewable for people with sight problems

    3) that's it. It doesn't manage penalty points, it doesn't run the driving license tests (Driving Standards Agency). It isn't involved with MOTs

    Anyone who has experience with #2 knows just how bad their record of performance is. Like Berlusconi, they had to change the law to protect themselves (Disability Discrimination Act). Against their own internal targets, they currently have a 10% achievement rate. (yes, you read that right.......)

    So, we have a "department" that employees 7000 people, costs £500M a year, that....runs a database and billing department. A big database - but it doesn't cost £500M a year.....should be similar to a large bank. And guess what - that database looks remarkably like TV licensing - where do you live? do you own a car (yes/no)? Do you own a telly (yes/no)? Please pay this bill wot we sent you, once a year......

    And THAT's why is a good thing. Because once it becomes obvious that's all they do, the DVLA are HISTORY - not a moment too soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like the business case for

      "It's all very simple (so long as we ignore the exceptions...)"

    2. veti Silver badge

      What fantasy Britain do you live in...

      ... where whole bureaucracies can be trimmed back or abolished, just because they're as useless as tits on a crocodile?

      No, the *best* case is that there's a huge fuss about how hopelessly outdated the DVLA's database is, and a huge national campaign is launched to make everyone update their details and check them at least twice a year. Then those 7000 people can be gainfully employed with spamming everyone in the country to remind them.

      A more likely scenario would be that the DVLA is made responsible for 'policing' car ownership, and you won't be able to buy or sell a car without logging onto their database, identifying both parties to the transaction, creating an ID for the guy you're selling to and checking that his Brazilian driving license does indeed allow him to drive it away, certifying on pain of perjury that you haven't "modified" the car at all, applying for a rebate on your prepaid road tax, entering the odometer reading and viewing a history of every MOT, every tax disc and every reported accident the car has ever been near.

      Basically, anything - *anything* - to avoid laying off civil servants.

  6. Robert E A Harvey

    It's queer thing

    When the penny [post was invented, govt. departments had to deal with letters from people. When the telephone came along they started answering the phone. I don't recall anyone agonising over the costs then.

    Now the internet has come along, and they'e responded. So why the costs analysis? It's something they need to have, like a roof.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually, the penny post went way over-budget

      Which helped bring down the government in 1841.

      Budget overun brings down a government - those were the days!

    2. Starkadder

      That wasn't the question

      The point here is that Directgov and its companions have not shown their value, not that gov. websites in general aren't useful. Directgov is a waste of space. I always google the actual thing I need and get taken straight to it. Directgov is a miserable attempt at a portal where none is needed.

  7. Directgovmustdie

    £83 milion for zero savings

    Smug smile from me. Under Varney, Directgov was supposed to save £400 million on websites alone (plus another £400 million in avoided letters and phone calls, but let's not be mean). seems like we have a right to know where that cash went. £2 million went on one advert. The website they offer is rotten. If you want to improve public sector computing and save money, write a big cheque to every public sector organisation to build their own websites.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's analogous to the NHS backbone scheme

      Deja vu...

      Problem: NHS organisations running many incompatible systems

      Solution A: develop interoperability standards and mandate that any systems developed or procured must be certified compliant. Suppliers take on the burden and costs of compliance

      Solution B: plan a mega one-size-fits-all solution. Throw unlimited cash at the problem. Replace stuff that works with stuff that doesn't

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