Time of need

Government websites struggled today to deliver information on terrorism and the war, notes Silicon.com. I’ve said before (is it 50 times or 100 times) that if we’re going to get e-government going a resilient infrastructure is vital. Departments have proven over and over again (Environment agenct, Iraqi dossier, PRO and so on) that they are all ill-equipped for sudden peaks, no matter how predictable they are. The Home Office terrorism site has been advertised widely and, given that, you’d expect people to visit – even now at midnight London time it is slow (and I’m using a 100KB/s connection from the hotel – twice BT’s ADSL speed in the UK). It is beyond belief that, at a time when the citizen turns to government for vital information, we are unable to deliver a reliable service.

Significant sites should be taken away from departmental control and put into a large-scale infrastructure that is capable of dealing with the demand. To not do so is to show that e-government is not being taken seriously and, in the worst case, could provoke a serious issue at time of greatest need.

To all those running sites that could be subject to high demand. There is no praise for keeping control and falling at the first hurdle. There is no praise for not distributing your content to as many sources as possible. There is no praise for architecting a poor infrastructure. The job is to keep the sites up, deliver the content to those who need it and to keep doing it.

September 11 proved that large proportions of the population turn to the Internet first when needing information. When they do, we’d better be there for them.

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