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Splat the rat - our never ending web rationalisation

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At SPRINT 14 last week Francis Maude referenced the “splat the rat” game we’re playing with government websites. You shut one and another one appears.

At DH we haven’t created any new websites for a long time, but it has been a long road to rationalisation, and we’re not finished yet.

In April 2013 we provided the Government Digital Service (GDS) with stats on all the websites paid for by the department, including our ALB websites. Or so we thought. We based our return on the list provided to us by GDS and added all the other sites we managed in the central digital team.

At the time of the return we were also in the midst of transitioning our corporate website and some of our subsites to GOV.UK, archiving lots more and supporting the digital teams in the new arm’s length bodies that were created as part of the Health and Social Care Act. It was a busy time.

As part of the creation of these new bodies, a lot more websites suddenly came into scope for DH. For example Public Health England was made up of 14 sender organisations, and at the latest count this included (wait for it)… 150 websites. PHE is going through the transition to GOV.UK now and many of these will be archived with some of the content migrated or rewritten.

So that’s a few more on our list.

But the thing that’s made the biggest difference to our awareness of what’s out there was the introduction of the spending controls for digital. You now can’t spend £1 on a new website or a domain name without it requiring approval from GDS. The controls have also flushed out a lot of other tools, applications and general digital stuff that we never knew existed, silently going about their business in cyberspace.

With the help of a colleague in our IT team we also recently discovered a batch of legacy applications or websites sitting on the old domain. And over the past few months we quietly disposed of most these antiques. We’ll need to find a solution for the handful of remaining applications that although not pretty, still perform a critical business function.

Since Alice’s blog last April we’ve archived 38 of the 42 subsites we listed. We still have a few like that we’ll keep for our engagement campaigns but in the next few weeks we’ll be migrating our remaining blogs to the GOV.UK platform.

So, like a school kid summoned before the headmaster to explain why they were told off by their teacher, we will stand before GDS, head bowed, feet shuffling and tell them that we have a few more websites than previously thought.

I finish with a plea. If you work at DH or in one of our ALBs and you run, own, pay for or know of a website that isn’t listed on the most recent GDS list please let us know. We won't necessarily ask you to close it, I promise.

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