Letter: Whitehall on the Web

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The Independent Culture
Sir: It is not true that "Government departments have fallen behind countries such as Australia, the United States and Germany in the quality of information presented on the Internet"; they have always lagged behind.

One quick example: in many of the press releases on the Central Office for Information's website, tables are missing because the organisation professes to be technically unable to produce them with the releases! Even amateur websites can now manage this.

But it is not only the quality of information that we lag behind in. The sheer volume of data and publications available to researchers and members of the public in the three countries mentioned is a joy to behold.

Here we still want to charge academic and private researchers for the privilege of access to so much official data and information.

Although substantial progress has been made in the past three or four years, especially in making Hansard and various Parliamentary committee reports accessible, the gap between what government should make available on the net and what it currently makes freely available is huge.

PAUL ASHTON

Eastbourne,

East Sussex

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