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Cabinet Office launches alpha.gov.uk

The Government seeks single unified approach to website presentation.

alpha.gov website homepage

The Cabinet Office has gone live with a prototype version of its alpha.gov.uk website in a bid to unify Government service information and encourage more citizens online.

Developed over a three-month period by the Government Digital Service in response to Martha Lane Fox's recent review of the Government's online resources, the alpha-stage site is specifically described as "a demonstration."

"Whilst it's public it's not permanent and is not replacing any other website," a note on the site read.

The Coalition is trying to bring about as radical a refresh of the country's infrastructural resources as it feels it can get away with. At the same time, the Government hopes to cast more positive light on its online entity and the much maligned direct.gov portal.

The alpha website's opening caveat reads as follows: "The purpose of putting this early prototype public is to test what are relatively radical design ideas before a huge amount of time and public money has been spent. We need your feedback."

The wider rationale behind today's website launch is directly linked to the Government's desire to get the nine million UK adults not currently using the internet to get online. Ultimately, this momentum is intended to convince the public that online public services are superior to traditional methods.

"What Alpha.gov.uk does is trial a selection of new, simple, reusable tools aimed at meeting some of the most prevalent needs people have from government online. The aim is to gather feedback on these new approaches from real people early in the process of building a new single website for central government," said the website's FAQ.

There are also clear financial benefits on offer, according to the website's blog.

"The numbers are startling. If people who are not yet online can be tempted into doing just one of their (typical) four or five monthly Government transactions online, then that would save the Government and hence taxpayers about 1bn each year. That's a big number," said Tom Loosemore, deputy director, Single Government Website, Cabinet Office, in a blog post.

"But, equally important, a gov.uk which is so good, so simple, so hassle-free that it actually encourages people who are not online to get online will save them hundreds of pounds per year think price comparison sites, cheap online offers etc. And many of those who are not yet online are people for whom savings hundreds of pounds can make a huge difference. (PWC's estimate is a saving of 560 per household per year.)"

He added: "So making gov.uk as simple as possible really matters. It needs to be so good people actively prefer it to offline alternatives, so much so that they recommend it to friends and family who are not yet online. Lecture over. Back to the code."

Today's announcement comes just one day after Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed news that the Race Online 2012 initiative had recruited 100,000 "digital champions" to help millions more UK citizens get online.

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