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Departmental Internet

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 15 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) responsibilities are and (b) grade is of his Department’s new head of digital engagement. (204821)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) new head of digital engagement was appointed in March 2008. Their responsibilities are:

to develop and deliver a top-level FCO internet strategy through which the FCO will use its new web platform, and the web more broadly, to deliver foreign policy outcomes; and

to commission and oversee the work of the FCO’s e-media team.

The head of digital engagement is graded FCO D7 (home civil service grade 6).

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the budget for his Department’s new website will be spent on the design of embassy and high commission websites. (204822)

Most of the templates and functionality of the embassy and high commission websites are shared with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) main site to maximise efficiencies across the sites. It is therefore not possible to extract the proportion of resources spent on the embassy and high commission websites—they are all part of the same FCO web platform. My answer to PQ 204823 sets out the total costs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the budget for his Department’s new departmental website. (204823)

The recent upgrade of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) corporate website is part of a wider project to deliver a new web platform and improved web presence for the FCO over five years.

The work will provide a single technical platform for all the FCO websites (including the main FCO website, Arabic and Urdu versions of the FCO website, UKvisas website, the FCO Freedom of Information website, and 229 embassy, high commission and special mission sites in multiple languages) as well as new designs, content, functionality and a new hub and spoke model for delivering business support.

The project will complete in September 2008, by which time all of the FCO posts websites will have joined the new platform and will operate under the central domain, fco.gov.uk

The initial cost of £9.7 million for the web platform was set out in the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Meg Munn) on 30 January 2008, Official Report, column 398W. The project is on target to cost £19.2 million over five years. This includes running costs, for example hosting and support, and some staff salaries. The cost of the project to date is £9.2 million which breaks down as follows:

consultancy (procurement, legal and business change advice): £1.631 million;

project management and support: £1.065 million;

software, development and implementation (including design and roll-out): £6.115 million; and

other (including training costs): £0.389 million.

The web is vital for the delivery of the FCO’s departmental strategic objectives. More people, in the UK and overseas, have contact with the FCO through the web than through any other channel. The FCO is committed to using the web to deliver its policy goals as well as key services such as travel advice and visa information.

The project has followed the Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review process and is delivering on time and to budget.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether a review was undertaken before the decision to approve funding for his Department’s new website. (204899)

A comprehensive review of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) online activity was undertaken during the summer of 2005 by digital agency Rufas Leonard. This produced a web strategy which set the direction for the development of the FCO’s web presence for the next five to seven years. This strategy underpinned the business case for the development of the FCO’s new websites which was approved by the FCO’s Investment Committee in January 2006. The project to redevelop the new websites has also been subject to the Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review Process and was rated green at both Gateway 3 and 4.