E-govt strategy still struggling

20 Jan 2003

There is yet more evidence that Ireland’s e-government initiative is buckling under the weight of poor direction and a failure to fully recognise the human resources requirements of the strategy

According to a survey by iQContent, which questioned public sector e-government professionals, a lack of strategic direction and human resources allied to problems creating and managing content are undermining the country’s e-government initiative.

The research, published today, finds that although the Irish e-government programme has made good progress, significant implementation problems are being experienced by most public sector agencies.

It found that the overwhelming majority of public sector agencies – 75pc – are experiencing difficulties implementing their strategies. 40pc identified a lack of strategic vision and 20pc saw a shortage of the appropriate human resources as the main obstacles to effective e-government implementation.

As reported by siliconrepublic.com last month, a rift between the Department of Finance and Reach revealed a lack of confidence in the management of the Government’s online public services strategy and operating costs.

Reach, the cross-departmental agency charged with the task of implementing the Public Services Broker (PSB), the one-stop hub at the centre of the proposed interaction between State and citizen, came under fire from the Department of Finance for the planning, management and excessive expenditure of the programme.

At present, Reach is still in the tendering process for the e-broker and it is believed that the six remaining bidders — Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, KPMG Consulting, Logica, PA and Siemens — have now been shortlisted to two firms. However, inter-departmental wrangles have resulted in a delay to the PSB.

The iQContent survey also highlights how human resources constraints are impacting on the delivery of e-government services. It found that 75pc of public sector websites are managed by only one person and that this person spends less than half his/her time on web-related activities.

Content creation, content management and accessibility for the disabled also emerges as being problematic for most public sector organisations.

95pc said they had difficulty creating and managing content on their sites and 85pc identified accessibility as a key challenge for effective e-government implementation.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com managing director if iQContent Morgan McKeagney said the main obstacle in the way of the more successful implementation of the initiative seemed to lie in the area of human resources. He said it wasn’t a case of lack of money but rather an underestimation of the necessity for human beings to actually implement the strategy in various posts.

“There’s a big disparity between what’s expected of people and the resources that are available to them. The key message is that the human part has been overlooked,” he said.

He added: “A gap emerges between high level rhetoric where you have a strategy which is very well thought out and then you find that at agency level the people just aren’t there. They haven’t been empowered with the resources. There’s a fundamental underestimation of the time requirements for the strategy to be implemented on an ongoing basis.”

There was some good news however, with the finding that most of the programme remains on track with 75pc of respondents having a clear idea of what e-government is about and its implications for their organisation. 65pc of organisation consider their implementation to be either on or ahead of schedule.

By Suzanne Byrne and Lisa Deeney