Whenever I hear about the government upgrading some utility website, I die a bit inside. I am strongly of the opinion that the government has no business to be in the business of building end user utility websites. A government should act as an enabler, not as a provider. How does this apply to utility websites?
Instead of getting it’s feet wet with building UIs, which usually are crappy, government should concentrate on trying to build robust apis/backends and let the citizens exploit it to their hearts content. There is a huge demand for any sort of utility api, I can vouch for this after being in charge of FreeCharge for an year now. We are rummaging for robust apis for utility services, while the whole spectrum is filled with crappy government websites.
Take for example how amazing it would be if IRCTC was an api provider/consumer instead of the website it is today. Think of all the cool apps/websites people would have built around this api. How many travel sites would have mushroomed around this concept? Along with spiking curiosity and entrepreneurship in people, this would also have lead to job creation.
This does not apply only to governments, but in general to anyone. Open up the gates, let people clamor to build UIs over your services. There are two major advantages in doing this, one, you get out of the distribution problem, two, you broaden the reach of your services. A classic case in point, twitter in it’s early days.
Building robust user interfaces may sound an easy job, but being in the consumer web for the better part of my career, I can confidently say that it is not as easy as it sounds. Does the line “If you build it, they will come” ring any bell?