Ireland in middle ranking for m-government

12 Mar 2007

A new report has ranked the Irish public sector as seventh out of the EU15 in its use of online and mobile communications.

The report was commissioned by O2 and carried out by the market research firm iReach. It is said to be the first attempt to compare Ireland with its EU public sector peers in readiness to use mobile technology to deliver e-government services. This is one of the key planks in the Lisbon Agenda, which aims to improve Europe’s competitive position as a knowledge economy.

The iReach study analysed the performance of four public sector areas: revenue, social welfare, health and education across the pre-accession EU countries, with an emphasis on online and mobile phone accessibility.

The report rates Ireland above the EU average in all categories except health. IReach developed a ranking system based around three criteria: access, interaction and engagement which were assigned two, three and five points respectively to arrive at a score out of 10.

The EU15 includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

For revenue, Ireland had a score of eight, above the EU average of 7.3. The report commended the Revenue Commisioners’ site, which includes a personalised contact option for SMS alerts. The agency is now estimated to receive as many enquiries by text message as by telephone.

In social welfare, Ireland ranks just above the EU average of 7.3 with a score of 7.5. The iReach report recommends that the Irish Government introduce a single card that bundles all public services in order to align with desired EU ideals.

Ireland’s ranking of 6.5 out of 10 in the health category shows there is work needed to emulate the continent’s leading countries. There are some local initiatives such as St Luke’s Hospital’s use of SMS to remind patients about appointments with doctors or consultants. The Blood Transfusion Board also sends SMS to specific donors when there is a shortage of certain blood types.

However, Oisin Byrne of iReach said that Ireland falls short of countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland. “There needs to be a greater drive towards online electronic communications and integration between stakeholders such as patients, doctors, consultants, nurses and public bodies,” he said. “For example, in Scandinavian countries integrated health IT systems allow booking of hospital beds and online medical advice.”

Billy D’Arcy, head of business sales and services at O2 Ireland, said the report shows that many Irish government services are already exploiting mobile technology. “However, it also finds that Ireland’s high level of mobile penetration gives rise to even greater opportunities for the public sector to further boost and streamline services to citizens,” he added.

The report points out that the high rate of mobile usage in Ireland, contrasted with low broadband penetration, means that mobile-based services are far more likely to be successfully adopted by Irish citizens and businesses over traditional web-based e-government offerings.

By Gordon Smith