UK government marks billion visits for GOV.UK, but misses digital exemplar target

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan October 16, 2014
GOV.UK celebrates second anniversary with a billion visits, but GDS admits to missing its digital exemplar targets.

It’s something of a good news, not so good news week for the UK government’s Government Digital Service (GDS) as it celebrates the second anniversary of the GOV.UK website, but admits that it’s going to miss its latest targets for getting government services online.

Let’s start with with the positive and GOV.UK, the award-winning central clearing house for online government services, which has clocked up the significant milestone of one billion visits!

Some interesting stats released by GDS to mark the second birhday of the single domain:

  • The top three most visited pages are find a job, renew your vehicle tax, and calculate your state pension.
    GOV.UK ranks alongside websites such as BT, BBC weather, and Sky News in terms of weekly visits.
  • 90% of visits have come from within the UK.
  • 36% of visits now come via a portable device (24% mobile and 12% tablet). On a weekend, this increases to around 50%.
  • The highest proportion of those visits from a mobile device is to calculate childcare maintenance.
  • The top three transactions conducted on the site are tax disc renewals (67,000 a day), Statutory Off Road Notification (8,000 a day), and practical driving test bookings (4,000 a day).

Source: GDS

Mike Bracken, Executive Director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) emphasises that this is still a work in progress:

There's still a lot to do, but one thing is clear: our agile, iterative, user-centric approach works. GOV.UK has won awards and praise from all over the world, but none of it would have happened without users. After two years, we're still learning from them, and still iterating and improving the site in response to feedback. Long may that continue.


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 Off target

Certainly there’s still work to do elsewhere as on a more downbeat note, it emerged this week that GDS’s goal of redesigning and rebuilding 25 key digital examplar’ services by March next year isn’t going to be met.

In a quarterly update report published earlier this week, GDS concedes:

At this stage, we anticipate that by the end of March 2015, 20 exemplar services will be being used by the public as live or public beta services.

Of the remaining five, two - online passport applications and the crucial and much criticised Universal Credit welfare benefits programme - will now go live in May, the month of the next general election in the UK.

The final three - digitising the Land Registry, claiming online Personal Independence Payments and providing an online tax dashboard for 120,000 tax agents - have a vague timeline of:

available for public use during the next Parliament.

So that’s some time between May 2015 and May 2020 which leaves a lot of wiggle room.

Meanwhile beyond these exemplars, the GDS update confirms that central government in the UK is working on more than 130 digital programmes.

My take

Nobody said it would be easy. The exemplar targets were ambitious and to get 80% of them delivered to schedule is no mean feat in its own right.

Of the remaining five, the curse of Universal Credit lingers on and that’s the one that could come back to haunt the government as the management and roll-out of the new UK benefits system prior to the election will be a major talking point in the political campaigning.

But that’s all to come. Meanwhile, happy birthday GOV.UK, definitely a job well done by GDS and in itself an exemplar for similar initiatives in the US and other governments worldwide.


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