“The Information Society is not something vague that has yet to emerge – it is here already. We are all participants to some degree or other.” So said Mary Hanafin TD (pictured) today at the launch of the second progress report on ‘New Connections’, the Government’s Action Plan for the information society.
Elaborating, the Information Society Minister said: “Our information society landscape is constantly developing on multiple levels. In the closing months of 2003, for instance, the telecoms market responded to Government initiatives to stimulate competition in the marketplace and a significant improvement in the availability of broadband products has occurred, with prospects of a continuation of this trend over the coming year.
“Progress in e-government services – such as motor tax, life event data, land registry etc – has also been particularly encouraging in a wide variety of areas. In addition, online service delivery will be made considerably easier with the Public Services Broker, which is scheduled to go live in the summer,” she added.
Hanafin said the report was very timely in that it coincided with the accession countries joining the EU. “The deepening of European integration will enable new social and economic connections between 470 million citizens across the enlarged EU. Ireland is on the geographical periphery of the European Union, but, through a coordinated implementation of policy and enterprise in the wider ICT area, in particular, we have proved beyond doubt that we capable of being at the very heart of developments and progress.”
The Minister highlighted the fact that in recent years, Ireland has consistently been ranked at the top end of the European league table for what we have achieved in our online public services. She added that, with further e-inclusion initiatives being undertaken this year, the Government would continue to show how technology can make a real difference to people’s lives.
The Minister said the challenge now was “to create meaningful and useful content to enable everyone to exploit technology to maximum advantage and to provide the levers of change and advancement that can help people to overcome barriers of personal and economic circumstance.
“Central to our Information Society is a flourishing interconnection between state and citizen through ICTs, enabled by an telecommunications network which is undergoing significant enhancement on a national basis.”
The report outlines progress achieved over the past 12 months on all seven policy strands of New Connections (telecommunication infrastructure, legal and regulatory environment, e-government, e-business; R&D, lifelong learning and e-inclusion).
By Brian Skelly
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