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Directgov is the UK government's website for citizens, providing a single point of access to public sector information and services. The content is developed by representatives from the many government departments that contribute to the site, working with a central Directgov team.

Directgov receives more than fifteen million visits a month, from around eight million unique users.[1] In September 2007, the site received its one hundred millionth visitor since its launch in April 2004.[2]

Contents

Services

Currently the website is primarily an information resource, providing users with officially written advice and information which is targeted to specific topics (e.g. motoring, money) and audiences (e.g. disabled people, parents). It also provides directories of government departments, agencies and local councils. There is also a Welsh language version of the site.

Over time, access to online government transactions and public services will be added to the site. The site currently links to a number of online transactions and forms such as applying for a passport, buying a television licence, car licensing, registering to vote, and completing a Self Assessment tax return form.

Since 2006, users in England have been able to find out about a wide range of services provided by local councils in their area, from reporting illegally dumped rubbish to renewing a library book. Direct links to each type of service were collected from every local authority through the Local Directgov programme.

A Directgov service is also available on digital interactive television (DiTV) through Sky Digital and Virgin Media, as well as on mobile phones by typing www.direct.gov.uk/mobile into the phone's browser. Also, it is on analogue teletext pages, and on Freeview (UK) channel 106.

DirectgovKids is a separate website designed to help children aged 5 to 11 find out about the world around them, by exploring the places and people in their local community. The Flash animated site is based around a cartoon globe, with interactive buildings including a police station, a town hall and a school. [3]

Directgov also provides a service that covers country wide customized maps for Blue Badge Holders with different base colors reflecting councils policies on Blue Badge Holder's parking. In addition to council policies this service also pin points the location of different features specific to disabled community.[4]

History

Directgov was launched in April 2004, replacing the UK online portal. Rather than just providing links to government departments as UK online had done, Directgov carried its own material, designed around users’ needs. The first three sections were for motorists, disabled people and parents.[5][6]

Since 2004, the site has grown from 300,000 visits a month to over ten million, and involves 18 government departments.[7] DirectgovKids was launched in March 2007.

In April 2006, Directgov moved from the e-Government Unit (eGU) within the Cabinet Office to become part of the Central Office of Information (COI), an executive agency of the Cabinet Office. [8]

As part of the Transformational Government strategy, an annual report was published in January 2007 stating that hundreds of government websites would be shut down "to make access to information easier" for people. In future, most government information will be streamlined through two main 'supersites' – either Directgov (for citizens) or Businesslink.gov.uk (for businesses).[9]

It was reported at the launch of the strategy that of 951 sites, only 26 would definitely stay, 551 would definitely close and hundreds more are expected to follow.[10] About £9 million a year was expected to be saved over three years by cutting back on sites that do not serve a useful purpose. [11] However it emerged shortly afterwards that this was misleading, as a large proportion of the 'blacklisted' sites had no plans for closure.

As of 1 April 2008, Directgov moved again, from COI to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), in a machinery of government change.[12]

By the end of the fourth quarter of 2009 Directgov reported traffic statistics of circa 20 million hits a month of which over 8 million are unique users. [13]

A national TV and radio advertising campaign was launched on the 4th of January 2010 featuring a number of celebrities including Suggs, Honor Blackman and Kelly Brook. [1]

Criticism

In 2005, several internet activists affiliated with mySociety wrote Directionlessgov.com to demonstrate that they could build something better in under an hour, by using a simple web page that linked to the Google search engine. Directionlessgov was later upgraded to compare the results of Directgov’s own search engine with the Google results side by side. In discussion, one of the authors wrote:

To me the [point we are] making is not that direct.gov should be licensing Google's search... it is that direct.gov should not exist at all - in practice everybody types what they want to do into Google. With the budget saved... instead optimise text and titles on government websites i.e. do some Search Engine Optimisation. Run user tests to find the terms that people search for when wanting to do things that government can help them with. Arrange that Google, Yahoo and MSN searches for those terms take them to the correct site. [14]

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper in August 2007, the chief executive of Directgov, Jayne Nickalls, responded:

Directionless does work a lot of the time. But it misses the point that Directgov joins up information for the citizen in a way that they understand. If you do a Google search you will get the information from a number of places and the citizen has to do the linking up for themself. [15]

References

  1. ^ "Web statistics". Directgov. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/SiteInformation/DG_10036216. Retrieved 2008-04-13.  
  2. ^ "Directgov hits one hundred million mark". Central Office of Information. 2007-10-02. http://www.coi.gov.uk/press.php?release=199. Retrieved 2008-04-13.  
  3. ^ Directgov launches site for 'young citizens' Ian Williams; 26 March 2007
  4. ^ Directgov Blue Badge map Directgov
  5. ^ Direct to your destination Michael Cross; guardian.co.uk. 4 March 2004
  6. ^ "Big changes for government site" BBC News; 1 March 2004
  7. ^ "Transformational Government 2006: Enabled by Technology" Chief Information Officer Council, January 2007
  8. ^ Directgov move to COI Cabinet Office, 27 March 2006
  9. ^ "Transformational Government 2006: Enabled by Technology" Chief Information Officer Council, January 2007
  10. ^ The doomed government websites BBC News, 11 January 2007
  11. ^ Government to close 551 websites BBC News, 11 January 2007
  12. ^ Interview:Jayne Nickalls, chief executive of Directgov Michael Cross; The Guardian. 22 August 2007
  13. ^ Directgov Site Information
  14. ^ Directionless.gov rides again e-Government@large, 24 November 2005
  15. ^ Interview:Jayne Nickalls, chief executive of Directgov Michael Cross; The Guardian. 22 August 2007

See also

External links

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