The UK Government will take its GOV.UK website out of beta this week, creating a new starting point to access all government digital services.
From October 17, UK citizens that visit existing Directgov and Businesslink websites — either by typing in the web address or visiting from a bookmark — will be redirected to GOV.UK.
The second phase of GOV.UK will see information from departments and a handful of non-departmental bodies move to GOV.UK by December 2013.
A third phase of GOV.UK will involve moving information published by other agencies and non-departmental bodies over to the new platform (with some exceptions). This will take about 12 months and will be completed by March 2014.
GOV.UK was born out of a website consolidation project started back in 2006, which sought to rationalise up to 75 percent of existing UK Government information sites and cut the cost of remaining sites by up to 50 percent.
In June 2010, the UK Government had an inventory of 820 websites. This contracted to 444 sites by July 2011, and central government departments have committed to close another 243 sites.
"The days of ‘vanity' sites are over. It is not good enough to have websites which do not deliver the high quality services which people expect and deserve," Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said in a statement last year.
In September, the UK Government Digital Service's chose Skyscape to host GOV.UK through the G-Cloud as part of a £600,000 ($940,000) infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) deal.
“In the past, we might have looked at dedicated servers or possibly even our own rack in a data centre somewhere," the head of the UK Government’s Digital Service Mark O’Neill said.
"We would then have had to decide if we wanted to own the servers or if we should rent them some time.
“We would have to make sure that we were not locked in if we needed to move servers, so it would be necessary to negotiate break clauses in contracts; we would need to arrange access to server rooms for security accreditation [and so on]."
Feds working on fewer websites
By contrast, Australia's federal strategy for consolidating websites remains under development.
While its recently issued ICT strategy states that government services will be available through “fewer” websites, with australia.gov.au a primary online entry point, a roadmap or schedule for consolidation is yet to be released.
Formal implementation during 2012-15 regarding website numbers is confined to “optimising” the number of government websites.