UKonline goes offline

Government portal experiences outage two days after launch

Government portal UKonline.gov.uk experienced an outage Wednesday morning raising new concerns about the government's online strategy.

The pilot version of the UKonline portal has only been live since Monday and is an important part of the government's initiative to get all services online by 2005. In addition to the outage the government admits the site will also not feature any transactional services -- the submission of claims forms and tax returns for example -- due to a lack of security.

The Cabinet Office admits there have been problems getting the site up and running. "We've had a minor hardware problem... it's obvious that there will be a few minor glitches with a new project that's as big as this one," says a spokesman. The government argues that such teething problems are expected and points out the site is still in trial stage.

The portal links to one thousand government Web sites, providing a search engine that is intended to direct the public to the relevant government service 24 hours a day.

The fact that transactional services such as the Inland Revenue's online facility for self-assessment tax returns have not been included in the portal will raise farther concerns over how achievable UK Online objectives are. Regarded as a crucial element of such sites, it is not the first time the government has failed to deliver. The DTI's minimum wage Web site -- launched in September -- did not allow users to submit claims. Again security was blamed.

The Cabinet Office says such services will not be available until early next year. "The current site is just a beginning, the feedback will drive how we improve it," says the Cabinet Office spokesman. "This is a long consultation exercise... as services become available online, they will be available through the portal."

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