“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity” – UK Govt websites for the chop

Chapter 1 discussed the potential for e-government and reviewed the case of Canada. But it’s clear that governments need to have an understanding of the costs and benefits of such activity. The new UK Coalition Government has set its sights on so-called ‘vanity’ websites set up by government agencies to promote their services, without any clear idea of costs or benefits. As part of its austerity-focused cost-cutting, the UK Cabinet Office has published some fascinating information on the costs and benefits of particular sites, and proposes closing up to 75% of the current 820 UK Government websites by the autumn. The UKInvest website, for example, was costed at over £11 per visit (presumably less now that everyone has piled in to see what the fuss is about). It even names and shames government websites which have been established without approval.

Passing the “mom test”: data.gov

In our discussion of the way in which governments engage more effectively with citizens online, we gave the example of Canada in Chapter 1. Another aspect of this relationship is about using e-government to achieve transparency and open government. Following the election of President Obama, the US site data.gov was seen as a way in which this could be achieved. Now, at its first anniversary, data.gov hosts over a quarter of a million datasets. A new look launches on 21st May, aiming to pass the “mom test”. Read this nice summary of the issues Obama’s Chief Information Officer faced in achieving the administrations goals (as well as finding out what the “mom test” comprises).