Francis Maude has risked tweaking the nose of the American administration by bemoaning the antiquated approach to IT employed by the White House in its disastrous launch of the Obamacare website.
Speaking on Wednesday, the Cabinet Office minister said that the American government should have learned from the British approach to providing online access to public services, and in particular the success of the UK government's digital programme, including the gov.uk site.
Francis Maude has slammed the Obamacare health insurance website
Maude also decried Washington's IT services as "some distance behind" its UK counterpart, adding that America was once a global leader in digital, a position it has relinquished to other nations.
Noting the success of the gov.uk site, a portal that brings the government billions in revenue from countries such as New Zealand that have paid for the source code, Maude said: "When the Obamacare web presence had a less than auspicious launch a few months ago there was a lot of commentary in the US press about 'why did they do it the old way, why didn't they do it the UK way?'.
"The British seem to be getting this right now with the Government Digital Service (GDS), they could have learned'. The US press said it in a way that must have been extremely irritating for the US administration but very flattering for us."
From its launch, the Obamacare website was beset with problems from an inability to cope with traffic to poor load times to questions over the reliability of data being transferred to the insurance companies.
Continual updates to the site in recent months have slowly ironed out many of the early difficulties and though the user experience remains far from optimal more than 1 million people have managed to sign up to the exchanges via the rehabilitated portal.
The poor roll-out of the website caused considerable embarrassment to the Obama administration
On the Obamacare project, Maude continued: "It was an old-style, 'get a big company, give them a specification, tell them to go away and build it, come back, they launch it,' and it doesn't work."
The minister added that his department had not been consulted by the Obama administration but suggested that they "probably should" get in touch due to the global interest in the British government's IT roll-out.
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Maude described UK plans to allow people to use their bank's system to prove their identity on websites providing government services. Clicking on an icon would allow them to complete the check required by their bank, mobile phone company, or other service provider. The approach would cut the number of passwords people need to remember, and avoid the need for a central government system to establish identities.
"This is something that is a problem for countries that do not have an ID card system and a national ID database," he said. "So it is an issue for countries like ourselves and the UK. The US is going down the same path as we are, but they are some distance behind."
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