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Government websites fail to attract low income audience; show worrying weaknesses

A report from the Common's Public Accounts Committee published today highlights the government's failure to improve significantly the quality of its websites.

The paper, entitled Government on the Internet, noted that three quarters of socially-excluded people and more than half those on low incomes do not use the internet or have no access to it.

After a decade of "uncoordinated growth", the government does not have an exact figure of how many websites it operates and some estimate that this figure could be as high as 2500.

The government has already said that it will cut almost 1000 official websites in the next three years and consolidate their content and services on the Direct.Gov and Businesslink.Gov websites.

The PAC found out that a third of official websites did not abide by the Cabinet Office's own standards to provide easy access to disabled users.

Furthermore, a quarter of government bodies do not know how much their websites cost to build and maintain.

The committed also said that all government websites should meet industry-wide standards of usability and accessibility.

The report added : "Overall, however, the quality of Government websites has improved only slightly since 2002."

The UK government spends £208 million a year on online services and websites.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.