Hub challenges critics to bid for ICT website work

The ICT hub has hit back at claims that its planned website is too expensive and invited critics to bid for some of the work of building the site.

The hub, a consortium of five organisations, has received £4m from the Home Office to improve voluntary sector ICT infrastructure and is planning to spend almost £250,000 on the site.

"It will be a very complex website that will bring together large amounts of information, but in a way that makes the user experience very straightforward," said David Edwards, head of IT4Communities, one of the hub partners.

Edwards said the website would combine three complex sites - the main hub site, a "knowledge base" of best practice information on ICT issues and a directory of resources, including suppliers.

The budget of £246,950 was not only for building the site, but also for the costs of hosting, support, maintenance and upgrades, he said. The site is expected to be fully live by April next year.

He was responding to criticism from Stuart Johnson, managing director of ichameleon, a web strategy agency with voluntary sector experience. Johnson said he would be "staggered" to spend even half that sum on a website (Third Sector, 9 November).

Edwards said the hub had followed the normal budget process to arrive at the figure of £246,950, including £239,000 for development work, which will be put out to tender.

"We've had indicative quotes from developers and this is the price we've got," Edwards said. "Stuart or anybody else is welcome to tender, if they can do it better or much more cheaply. Obviously, cost will be a factor."

Edwards said the site would provide a one-stop shop that integrates all elements and "enables people who are not web-savvy to find their way around easily."

He said hub partners were working with many organisations that were happy with the proposals. "With any large new initiative in any sector you are unlikely to get full agreement on the way forward," he added.

The hub plans to cater mainly for smaller voluntary bodies, working through a local network of councils of voluntary service and government regional offices.

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