NI government awards stg£20m e-government contract to BT

20 Nov 2012

BT Ireland CEO Colm O'Neill (left) and Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson

BT has been awarded a stg£20m contract from the Northern Ireland government to improve the public’s access to government services through online, mobile and social media.

The contract will begin 1 December and will see BT provide contact centre capability to provide services such as direct debit set up for paying rates, managing information on grant eligibility and application status, and providing advice on a number of government initiatives and campaigns.

The contact centre will provide telephone, web chat, email, SMS and social media services to allow citizens to access government.

In the past week, it emerged that broadband speeds in Northern Ireland have more doubled in the past year, from 6.3Mbps to 14.4Mbps. This compares to the UK average of 12.7Mbps in the UK.

Northern Ireland puts ‘Digital First’

“The new partnership contract has been designed to be flexible and future focused to ensure that it not only meets the needs of people today but will continue to deliver excellent customer service in the future,” Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson explained.

“While promoting the ‘Digital First’ approach for access to government services, the NI Direct Partnership will also help people who do not have access to the internet, through a telephone support service where customer service agents will access online services on their behalf,” Wilson added.

Under the deal, which will last seven years, BT will provide the ICT expertise, support and infrastructure. It will also include a new payments system and software tools to enable citizens to access online government services and mobile apps.

BT will also become responsible for the delivery of the Flooding Incident Line on behalf of the Flood Response Agencies. Improvements to these services will include increasing capacity in the number of agents who can take these calls when incidents occur.

“Society is changing and needs and expectations are changing with it,” said BT Ireland chief executive Colm O’Neill.

“Our partnership with NI Direct will focus on increasing the range, usage and quality of digital interactions and services which deliver the greatest impact and efficiency for the public and departments. We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring our innovative technologies, processes and skills to bear on this initiative,” O’Neill said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years