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Government Digital Service reviews GOV.UK exemptions

GOV.UK - Image credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

Government Digital Service reviews GOV.UK exemptions

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is to review exemptions that have been granted for central government organisations to host their online content outside of the GOV.UK infrastructure.

Since launching in 2012, the GDS-developed GOV.UK platform has been the default location for the websites of all UK central government organisations.

Content and services across the site operate on standardised common tools, and any department or other public body wishing to use a different platform must first apply for an exemption to do so.

GDS has recently updated the ‘GOV.UK proposition’, which provides guidance on what content should and should not be hosted on the website, and on the use of domains.

According to the digital agency, the guidance has been amended, in part, to “reflect the broad range of content and services that are now offered through GOV.UK”.

This includes “campaign activity and raising awareness, reflecting GOV.UK’s role in providing key information and access to services during major national events”.

Although exemptions can still be applied for, the increased breadth in services and content offered through GOV.UK means that it may be harder for departments to make a case that they would be better served by an alternative platform.

"While the qualifying requirements are now more stringent, we’ve kept the exemption process for content and services that either fall outside the GOV.UK remit, or where user needs would be better met off GOV.UK,” GDS said, in a blog post.

“As GOV.UK continues to develop and provide greater functionality there will be less of a case for exemptions from the site.”

GDS will examine existing exemptions and, if necessary, ask the organisation in question to move their website back onto GOV.UK infrastructure. 

“We’re also reviewing the exemptions we’ve granted in the past against the updated proposition,” the digital agency said.

“This will give us a clearer view of what should be on the platform and whether sites and services currently operating separately from GOV.UK would be better met through GOV.UK.

“Where these sites and services can move to GOV.UK, we will support them in making the transition. Moving forward, we want more government’s digital activity to be on GOV.UK.”

Updates made to the GOV.UK proposition include combining advice on exemptions with guidance on what content is required to be hosted the platform.

“Putting these into a single document makes the guidance easier to follow,” GDS said.

Other changes include the addition of a list of domains – such as campaign.gov.uk and service.gov.uk – that collectively constitute the GOV.UK website.

Additional information also has been provided on the kind of content that should not be included on the government platform, “such as party-political content, advertising, and anything that doesn’t support commercial neutrality”.

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