Government department websites are currently undergoing a significant change in how they present online content to citizens and businesses, with a view to making them easier to use and more accessible to all members of society. Over time, department websites are being moved to one single website, gov.ie, giving people a one stop shop for accessing information on government services and organisations.
It is generally seen as best practice to pursue the consolidation of public service information into one consistent accessible website. The most digitally advanced countries within the EU (see the EU eGovernment Benchmark 2018 - Denmark, Estonia, Austria, Latvia and Malta), have already moved to a single digital gateway approach. Furthermore, a 2016 market research exercise carried out by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found that the concept of a single, online portal for government was positively received by both the general public and representative bodies alike. This view was again confirmed by a subsequent market research exercise carried out in late 2018.
Following a government decision to migrate all ministerial department websites to gov.ie, work has proceeded on this basis. So far, five departments have moved their website content to gov.ie - the Departments of the Taoiseach; Public Expenditure and Reform; Rural and Community Development; Transport, Tourism and Sport; and Finance.
As a part of the migration to gov.ie, content from websites are reworked and moved into the gov.ie website (for example, efforts are made to make the services content easier to understand through the use of plain English). Post migration, the internet addresses for the new content within gov.ie is different from the addresses of the content, including documents, on the old websites.
The migration of a website to a new one with a different address necessarily breaks links to the old website content from external sources. This is suffered for all website migrations, including the department websites in question. This issue is temporary in nature as search engines re-index content on the internet, and also as external sites (that are not search indexes) update their links to point to the new location of content. Over time, the issue of finding broken links and being redirected to a department’s homepage on gov.ie will become less and less frequent, and will eventually cease to occur.
To reduce the impact of the temporary ill effects caused by these website migrations, the occurrence of visitors to broken links within gov.ie is monitored via site analytics. In conjunction with each department’s content manager, work is continuously being undertaken where possible to redirect such broken links to the correct and new location within gov.ie. Furthermore, prior to website migration into gov.ie, work is undertaken to pre-emptively set up such redirects to popular content so as to reduce the likelihood of this issue arising.
Between search engine re-indexing and the ongoing efforts based on website analytics, the user experience of gov.ie in regards to the matter the Deputy refers will improve over time.