Now up and running for over a year and a half, the On-line Access to Services, Information and Support (Oasis) project has expanded and diversified the services it offers through its Oasis website (www.oasis.gov.ie).
Designed to allow the average citizen to quickly and easily locate information on State services and procedures, the Oasis site has grown in size and is now a significant repository of useful data.
The idea is simple: there are over 100 government departments and agencies in existence but finding the right one to deal with when a citizen needs information on a particular topic can be difficult. The solution to this problem suggested by Comhairle was to put together a database and make it accessible to the general public through a website.
In order to make it easier to find specific information, information hosted on the Oasis site is grouped together under separate ‘events’. Most people will go through a range of events during their lifetime where they are likely to seek contact with government departments, such as the birth of a child or registering a car.
Oasis is designed to take information about all the services that relate to each event and put it into one place. This way users can easily find everything they need in one place, even if they would normally have to deal with multiple government departments.
A total of nine life events are covered on the site, under headings such as having a baby, you and your job, marriage, separation and divorce and when someone dies.
Oasis has grown steadily since its birth and has expanded and diversified as it has grown. The most significant development in recent months is the new government services directory, located at www.contacts.gov.ie, which is a searchable database of 8,000 government outlets around the country.
Included at the site developed by Oasis are contact names, addresses and opening hours for national government departments, local authorities, hospitals, clinics, schools, social welfare offices and revenue offices in every county in Ireland.
“Anyone can log onto it and anyone can use it. You can search it or select the county in which you are looking for information. It’s very comprehensive but obviously we were concerned that it would be difficult to keep so much information current and up to date,” says Darach Green, project manager for Oasis.
The solution was to set up the site so that users can suggest changes to the administrators, putting the onus of keeping it updated jointly on Oasis staff and the general public.
“We have structured the database so that it will be updated over time as people use it. Users can leave notes about opening hours or changes to contacts as they find them,” says Green.
The contacts website developed out of the service finder area of the main website and Oasis has plans to integrate the two in the future.