Government websites ridiculed as 'online Dome'

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Indy Politics

Government websites are failing to attract those who would benefit most from them because they are so poorly designed, a study has found.

Government websites are failing to attract those who would benefit most from them because they are so poorly designed, a study has found.

Less than 3 per cent of the population regularly use an official website to find out about government services despite a £5bn drive to put all services online by 2005, said IT consulting firm Hedra, which is advising the Government on the internet. Only one Briton in three has ever visited an official website, even though two-thirds have internet access.

Pensioners and people on social security benefit are among those who would benefit most from being able to access relevant official information over the internet but no one over the age of 65 or from a lower social group questioned in the study said they regularly accessed government websites. Hundreds of official websites have also been found to have "serious problems", with 20 flagship sites needing "immediate attention". The Prime Minister's site ­ at http://www.number-10.gov.uk/ ­ was listed among the worst offenders.

A spokesman for Hedra said: "The government websites could turn out to be a series of online Millennium Domes with just a few visitors unless sites are better designed." Half those questioned in the study said they would make more use of government sites if they were easier to use.

Andrew Pinder, the Government's "e-envoy", said: "We recognise that British citizens and businesses are not yet using government services online in the numbers that match the best in the world. We need to ensure that the most popular services are made available as soon as possible to maximise the impact of e-government."

A spokeswoman for Mr Pinder added: "It is a tough target to meet but we're confident we will do it." She added that there were already initiatives to help the less internet-savvy members of society including "internet buses" with computers in public places such as supermarket car parks, and staff who can help people get online.

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