Government Closing 500+ websites

The government is set to close 500 odd websites (has, in fact, already shut down 90), with 300 still hanging in the balance. Why?

Well, it all hinges on the ‘Varney Review’ which decided that by 2012 Directgov should be the “primary electronic channel to citizens for government” and should be the “single gateway” for businesses. In other words – they are trying to streamline the massive presence the government has online. The government has close to 1000 different websites, which makes it difficult to find what you want – particularly if you don’t know how to search effectively, don’t really know exactly what you want, or don’t know which department deals with it.
So streamlining sounds like a good idea. 26 websites are staying, and these are the main departmental ones. The Varney Review recommended that “all departments will have one corporate website”, which makes a lot of sense.

The Guardian describes it as “centralisation gone mad”. But some streamlining is undoubtedly necessary. Any “information of continuing relevance” is to be transferred from the defunct sites to the ‘supersites’ of directgov and Looking at the list of websites which are to close, I realised I had never heard of most of them – so I’m unlikely to miss them when they are gone. (Though confusingly, some of those listed appear not to be whole websites, but sections of departmental websites – such as the DTI Firework safety site.)

Some of the sites which are to go:

  • Cyclesense – a rather strange looking site with x-ray pictures of people wearing cycle helmets, and various cycle safety tips.
  • CycleSmart (which actually seems to be a disney site – a little strange!), also gives safety tips on cycling – no x-ray pics on this one though.
  • The Academy – another bike site – this one for ‘Superbikes’ – actually there are a lot of transport/traffic/road safety sites on the list.
  • DSA Ask What If – a series of videos and booklets designed to boost your awareness of hazards on the road. Apparently. Why this needs an entire website all to itself, who knows!
  • Civil Service Race Equality Network
  • Defence Bills Agency
  • MOD FOI site – hmm… I’m sure there’s a comment to be made there!
  • Send Money Home – a site telling you how to send money home, as long as home is in one of 12 countries listed.
  • Business Linkages Challenge Fund – !
  • Government Decontamination Service – can we really afford to lose this one?
  • Beefy and Lamby – ok, that makes sense of Binary Law’s post title now. This one is quite fun, with recipes and meat-handling tips.
  • Love Pork – with the wonderful article entitled “Love Pork and Love Your Family”

Some that seem to already be gone:

  • Competitiveness indicators 2002
  • MAVIS forum – no idea what this was!
  • Clean Safe Worldwide

Obviously there are benefits to the government – who will be saving up to £400 million apparently – and the benefits to the rest of us are supposed to be ease of access and use. Will it work? We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we.

Further reading:

“When good ideas for government sites go bad” – Guardian article
“Beefy and Lamby anyone?” – Binary Law
“Over 500 government websites set to close” – Phil Bradley
“UK Government to close down websites” – Karen Blakeman
“Government to close 551 websites” – BBC
“Minister and experts announce major progress in first year of Transformational Government strategy” – Cabinet Office press release
Varney Review
Transformational Government Annual Report
List of websites to close

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