The United Kingdom government last Wednesday launched its progress report on "Transformational Government: Enabled by Technology" with the news that at least 551 government Web sites are to be cut to make access to information easier for citizens and businesses. "The Chief Information Officer (CIO) Council has been working to identify barriers that prevent the sharing of services, and a report has been produced on breaking down these barriers," said the report.

In a move that is believed to benefit tens of millions of users, only 26 of the Web sites examined so far will be retained by the government, while 551 will go. Information of continuing importance from closed sites will transfer to the U.K. government's Directgov and Business Link Web sites.

The report is the first of its kind in Europe and shows that transformation in government is a long-term endeavor involving tough challenges. "We are at the beginning of the Transformational Government strategy and we recognize that we have more to do," said John Suffolk, U.K. CIO. "We operate in over 140 countries, spend some 12 billion pounds ($23 billion) a year across the whole public sector and run many of the world's largest computer systems ... it's a complex operation."

Use of government IT has now reached a critical mass and ordinary citizens are at the heart of this new way of working. "But today people won't accept a service handed down from on high. They want to shape it to their needs, and the reality of their lives...," said Prime Minister Tony Blair in a speech at the Labour Party Conference in September 2006. As an important aspect of this "Customer-Centric" attitude towards services provided by the government, the Service Design Authority established the Customer Insight Forum designed as "a network to help government gather, analyze and use information about the needs and preferences of citizens and businesses more effectively."

The Minister for Transformational Government, Pat McFadden, said, "This report demonstrates how millions of people are benefiting from our use of technology everyday. We are dealing decisively with the proliferation of government Web sites by getting rid of more than 500. We are ensuring that the quality of our services will not be affected by these changes."

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer