The government commissioned Lane Fox to review the strategy of DirectGov, and in October she produced the Race Online 2012 report, which called more public services to be delivered through digital channels.
“My report outlines specific measures to improve the amount and quality of transactional services the Government provides. But this is just the beginning: the Government must look at more dramatic measures, such as syndicating and opening up information and services to other organisations, to be able to offer genuine improvements to consumers, taxpayers, business and citizens in the UK,” she said.
One of Lane Fox’s proposals was to “simplify” the user experience of digital public services by making all of government’s transactional services available through Directgov – and Francis Maude has this week said that a timetable for migrating these services to the citizen website will now be produced. He also said that Directgov and Business Link will be asked to develop a plan outlining the opportunities and issues of converging the two sites into a single domain.
But Maude added: “I agree in principle with your proposal that over time government should move to a single domain based on agile shared services. However, this will be challenging for government and I will need to consult colleagues before we make a final decision about how to proceed.”
To this end, Maude plans to set up a new Ministerial Working Group on Digital that will report issues to the Cabinet Economic Affairs Committee.
Lane Fox argued in her report that shifting 30 percent of government contacts to online channels could deliver annual savings of more than £1.3 billion. This could rise to £2.2 billion if half the contacts were digital.
Maude said: “At present we inherited contracts that effectively limit the number of people who can use some online services. And for most benefits it is simply not possible to apply online. This is inconvenient, expensive, wasteful and ridiculous and it cannot continue.
“As Martha Lane Fox’s insightful report shows quality online services can be the default solution for people needing government services.”
He insisted, however, that the strategy will not exclude those who are less likely to access the internet.
“We recognise that we cannot leave anyone behind. Every single government service must be available to everyone – no matter if they are online or not.”
Meanwhile, a company that provides website monitoring and measurements services to Directgov, has said that adding web pages and services online is “only half the battle”.
“The government needs to take a leaf out of Amazon’s book and start building websites that watch and react to a user’s actions, changing its own pages and content, in real-time, to make services more usable and accessible,” said Malcolm Duckett, VP of operations at Speed-Trap.
According to the Financial Times, Maude said that services that will soon be moving online including VAT registration and Company House filings for businesses. Furthermore, 80 percent of benefit claims for jobseeker’s allowance and the new universal working age credit are also expected to be online by 2013.