Portal aims to revolutionise government services

Government relaunches Web site as part of its online plans

The government relaunched its UKonline portal Monday in an effort to boost its electronic delivery plans.

UKonline is designed as a bureaucracy-busting Web site providing cradle-to-grave services for citizens. The Web site first went live in December but, following complaints, has been radically redesigned. The site also experienced significant downtime in its first week.

The emphasis now is on simple, clear information which the government says will revolutionise the way public services are delivered.

The site has three key areas. "LifeEvents" offers services for key events in people's lives such as bereavement, moving house or coping with crime. In the "Citizen" space users can find out about government plans and respond to issues in a series of forums. But following feedback showing that surfers want specific information rather than just to browse the site, the most important part will be the search engine that links to over 1,000 government Web sites.

One of the most controversial features of the site is its news section, which employs around 30 journalists and features daily news from the government. The Cabinet Office director of e-communications and editor of UKonline Lucian Hudson denied press reports that this will be little more than a platform for government spin. "It has to be factual and it has to be objective. It is not about hype and it is not about spin," he said.

Future plans include adding transaction services, added Cabinet Office minister Ian McCartney. "This is just the starter in a moving feast. We are investigating a tranche of new services -- such as packaged information and services for people retiring, changing jobs, starting, changing or leaving school and becoming a carer."

The Web site is a key part of the government's £1bn drive to get all services online by 2005. Since December it has had nearly nine million hits. Not everyone is convinced the government will hit its target. A recent Forrester survey showed nearly 90 percent of businesses believed the government would fail.

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