The DTI is spending £60,000 on building templates for a website launched under a year ago at a cost of £200,000.
The £60,000 is part of the money to be spent ensuring that the DTI website meets the standards the department specified in the original requirements for their site, despite the suppliers of that site being made fully aware of those requirements and failing to deliver them.
The DTI is employing Fujitsu, the very same company that received the lion’s share of the £200,000 spent on the original site, to meet the standards they were contracted to deliver in the first place.
The £60,000 covers only one half of the first step in a three-step process.
“The Government is committed to ensuring that all government websites are accessible and easy to use for people with disabilities.
Action 7 of the Prime Minister’s Digital Strategy is to ‘improve accessibility to technology for the digitally excluded and ease of use for the disabled’.
This strategy is to be implemented by DTI with support from OGC and eGU (now the Cabinet Office Delivery and Transformation Group). A cross-government review of the Digital Strategy is currently under way under the supervision of the DTI).”
I received a response yesterday. Here’s an excerpt (there’s lots of background information that we already know):
We discussed the issues you raised with officials from the Department. In their view, the main cause of the accessibility problems involves the Content Management System. Although the project experienced technical difficulties, the Department did not, in our view, effectively manage its relationship with contractors who were involved in developing the website, and as a result the Department did not achieve its objectives for a website meeting recognised accessibility standards. The DTI recognises that its management of this project was not satisfactory.
The Department has commissioned the work needed to rectify the accessibility problems, and acknowledges that further expenditure is likely to be required to make its website compliant with government guidelines.
There is evidence that the Department is taking steps to learn from the problems experienced with this project. As outlined above, the Department commissioned a review of the accessibility of the website from Nomensa, which identified the main issues to be resolved and suggested a number of solutions that would enhance web accessibility and can be applied more widely in managing procurement projects.
I am not able to comment on the Department’s decision not to provide an answer to you under Freedom of Information legislation on the grounds of cost. If you wish, you are entitled to raise this matter with the Information Commissioner, whose website is www.ico.gov.uk.
So: lessons have been learned, an as-yet unspecified amount of dosh has been pissed down the toilet, but hopefully the public might get the website it should have had in the first place – and a group of unaccountable civil servants might just do their procurement and project management better. Maybe.
The project to launch a consistantly branded, usable website and implement a Content management System took place over a three year period. The requirement for the new website to comply with Level AA of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines did appear in the original Invitation to Tender. It is regrettable that at the end of a long and complex phase of delivery of the project, this element was lost.
The Department does recognise the importance of ensuring our web content is accessible to all. We acknowledge that there are some accessibility issues with the new website. An accessibility audit of the site has been commisioned, to identify where the site fails to comply with relevant standards. The recommendations will be used to ensure, subject to cost and available resources, the site meets Level A of the W3C’s WCAG as laid down in the guidlines for UK Government Websites as soon as practicable and Level AA in the longer term.
Despite the acknowledged accessibilty issues, we can confirm the new website is being used on a daily basis by a member of the DTI staff who uses the Supernova speech and magnification system (V6.5). This assistive technology does allow users with visual impairments to navigate the website and access the content of the pages. This demonstrates the new DTI website does not ‘lock-out’ all users with disabilities.
Regular readers will know that Dan Champion and I have asked questions of the Department of Trade and Industry over spending a quarter of a million pounds of taxpayer’s money on a new website that failed to meet the accessibility standards required in their own spec.
The questions were asked twenty days ago under the Freedom of Information Act. On the last possible day the law allows for them to delay before responding, they have answered our questions.
Our unhappiness is due to their wasting public money on a site that does not meet the level of accessibility required in their own spec, and the fact that the DTI have said that “if further changes are to be made to the website the cost will be met by DTI”, so presumably, Fresh01 (the suppliers) will not be required to put their mistakes right at their own expense (if indeed, the DTI’s answers show that it’s the supplier’s fault).
We want to know why this shoddy procurement, development and supplier monitoring happened, and what will be done to prevent it reoccurring. Therefore, we’ve sent further questions to the DTI as a request under the Freedom of Information Act.