A week is a long time in politics,” said the former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. That is exactly how I feel after a week out of the country and returning to the post-budget austerity and catching up on the many announcements from the new Coalition Government.

One of the most fascinating reports that I have been catching up on is the Central Office of Information’s (COI) report on the costs, quality and usage stats of government websites.  The report provides a detailed assessment of the usage of the main central Government websites and identifies the average cost per visit and length of visit, among many other performance variables. 

The highest cost per visit is specified by the report at £11.78 (www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk) and the average duration of website visits ranges from 15 minutes and 15 seconds (www.culture.gov.uk) to 1 minute and 2 seconds (www.oft.gov.uk).

The web remains one of the most important channels available to the Public Sector to both communicate with citizens and lower the cost of transactions. As previously reported, Government Gateway alone has over 11 million users and offers a diverse range of online transactional services including: submitting tax returns online; requesting a pension forecast; registering to be a blood donor; applying for a provisional driving licence; or even booking a ticket for the Portaferry to Strangford ferry in Northern Ireland.

In addition local authorities are continuously innovating in their use of Web 2.0 solutions to engage better with citizens, improve service responsiveness and satisfaction, and lower administrative costs.  ‘LoveCleanStreets’ for tackling environmental crimes across 33 London boroughs is an excellent example of this innovation at work.

One last thought extrapolated from the statistics in the COI report. There were 568,321,965 visits to 47 central Government web portals in 2009-10. By any measure that suggests that the UK general public does expect to find information and transact with public sector organisations online.  It will be fascinating to watch the likely exponential growth in this number in the years ahead.

Posted by Ian