Dot-gov reform presses on, here and across the pond

U.S. agencies have shed about 400 websites since December; the U.K. is down to one.

An initiative to drastically reduce the number of federal websites has been making slow but steady progress during the last few months.  

There were 1,091 non-redirecting federal websites on a list maintained by the General Services Administration when I checked just a few days ago. As of Wednesday, the list is down to 1,084 unique sites. That’s compared to nearly 1,500 dot-govs during an official count in December.

This progress is particularly worth noting because the British government, which U.S. technology officials have cited as a model for dot-gov reform, reached a milestone this week, pulling all government Web content into a single master domain.

The British site, which has won high praise from developers, wasn’t fast in coming. British officials spent more than six years paring down and consolidating websites. The key was maintaining constant pressure on government offices through multiple leadership administrations, David Pullinger, head of the British Government on the Web office, told me last year.

A well-ordered government Web presence can be crucial to giving citizens the information and services they need without making them pull their hair out, as the British director of Government Digital Service noted upon the launch. President Obama has ordered agencies to improve their digital customer service using private sector best practices.

A consolidation as extensive as the British one is probably a bad fit for the U.S. government Web presence, Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel has said. Achieving even more moderate progress is sure to take several more years and perhaps another presidential administration if the British model is any guide. Progress so far, however, suggests officials are taking the plan seriously.