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COI promises value for money websites as it moves to audit sites

LONDON - The Central Office is promising possible cost savings as it assesses the value for money of government websites and reveals for the first time how often central government sites are being used.

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ABCe has been appointed, by COI, as a sole third party to independently validate the figures generated by an audit of government websites, in the largest project of its kind to date.

COI will publish comprehensive figures on the cost quality and use of government websites by June 2010.

The COI said that the decision to appoint ABCe offers significant savings for UK taxpayers.

Recent COI guidance has created a common framework for government departments to measure the cost effectiveness, use and performance of their websites.

All central government departments will be required to provide their usage figures for auditing and going forward departments will have to ensure that every website has an audit schedule.

A consistent set of measurements for unique users/browsers, page impressions, visits and durations of time spent on sites will underpin the audit.

News of the audit follows the story about a Government-funded mobile video series aimed at cutting teenage pregnancy which in effect cost £45 per subscriber.

The COI said that ABCe's work will provide greater transparency and confidence in the figures which will be used by government to manage performance and investment in digital media.

The audit will also help to improve accountability of website owners.

To improve user satisfaction a usability tool kit for departments who are developing new, or refreshing existing government sites, is also now available from COI.

The government communications department said that the move formed part of a suite of new materials and guidance developed in conjunction with the Cabinet Office and the Power of Information Task Force. 

Alex Butler, COI Board Director for Interactive Services, said: "We are determined to drive up the quality of government websites to ensure they offer excellent value for money for the taxpayer, and a better user experience.

"COI has a key role to play in ensuring government can connect effectively with citizens and business online."

The audit is, in part, a response to a Public Accounts Committee recommendation for reliable data on the volume and use of central government sites.

The COI added that it was also being driven by a desire for COI to provide greater accountability for its own investment in digital media.

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