Monday, July 27, 2009

UK Ministers probed about continued Internet Explorer 6 use in their departments

I've posted previously about whether it is time for government departments still using the nine-year old Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 to upgrade to a more modern web browser.

This topic has become a matter of political interest in the UK, raised in a question to British Parliamentary Ministers last week and reported in an article in Kable, MoD sticks with insecure browser.
Members of the armed forces will carry on using Microsoft's outdated Internet Explorer 6 browser, contravening the government's own advice on internet security.

According to parliamentary written answers received by Labour MP Tom Watson, the majority of departments still require staff to use IE6. Most have plans to upgrade to the more secure IE7, and some to IE8, but the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has no plans to change.
This should raise a flag for senior Australian public servants, who need to consider whether they risk negative political attention to their Ministers and the government due to any policy restricting their department to this old and non-standard web browser.

The use of such an old browser can also raise tensions when Departmental staff are attempting to view the web in the same manner as their customers, who are more likely to use Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3 or Safari.

This can lead to issues testing usability and accessibility, issues viewing websites no longer optimised for Internet Explorer 6 and when staff are attempting to co-browse the internet with customers whilst on the phone.

Labour MP Tom Watson was quoted in the Kable article, stating,
"Many civil servants use web browsers as a tool of their trade," he told GC News. "They're as important as pens and paper. So to force them to use the most decrepit browser in the world is a rare form of workplace cruelty that should be stopped.

"When you consider that the government supported Get Safe Online initiative advises that companies should upgrade from IE6, you would imagine that permanent secretaries would like to practice what they preach," he added. "Why civil servants should not be given the choice to use Firefox or Chrome or Safari is beyond me. UK web workers deserve better."


  1. Internet citizens from a fews years ago may remember Tom Watson from his "yoof" page (since taken down by content archived on The Register at )