E-government is back on Ireland’s national agenda

17 Nov 2011

E-government in Ireland, a term not heard of for quite a while, has returned to the table and the provisions set out by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, TD, call for more progress in the area, along with advances in cloud computing and shared services.

Today, Howlin proposed a set of plans that will see the number of people employed in the public sector drop by 37,500 to 282,500 by 2015.

While the reductions are going to result in savings for the public purse, it is clear that State doesn’t want to see any reduction in the quality of service to citizens (aka, customers).

At the heart of the new measures is a Public Service Card and the return of a term you might not have heard for a few years: e-government.

The internet will be at the heart of a slew of new services planned, including a new single awarding authority for student grants that will include an online application process that will commence in the 2013 academic year.

New online services will include online voter registration, national rollout of fixyourstreet.ie and a central portal for more than 300 public services.

Public accountability will be a key factor and building on the Healthstat initiative the State will embark on a wider GovStat initiative during 2012.

Public Service CIO Council

It recommends appointing a Public Service CIO Council to assist and drive ICT and e-government initiatives across the public sector, beginning this quarter.

Work on the creation of a “new eGovernment Strategy” has commenced and will be completed by the end of Q1 2012 and each department and public body will complete plans in relation to the new e-government strategy by Q3 2012.

Among the examples provided are the rollout of new services, such as the digital renewal of adult passports, the national rollout of fixyourstreet.ie by all local authorities, and planning applications and objectives are to be handled online.

A key reason for the take-up of electronic services and self-service facilities is that it will reduce the dependency and traffic to offline channels and enable staff to be redeployed to other priorities.

A Public Services Card (PSC) will be the key access mechanism for the vast majority of public services.

The Government said it will continue to enhance the use of cloud computing in the public service and trials and research have begun with “major ICT companies.”

A “Cloud Computing Strategy” for the public service will be published at the end of the first quarter 2012.

A further provision is to “Seek, through market exercises, to develop a compelling case over traditional computing provision for infrastructure-as-a-service (IAAS) provision for the public service.”

All Government departments are currently part of a consultation into driving shared services across all departments and public bodies. The project will be led by a shared services transformation manager.

Services that could be shared across all departments include HR management, finance, payroll, ICT, procurement and pensions.

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