Ireland has failed to improve on the number of online public services it offers its citizens in the past two years, an electronic government survey for the European Commission has revealed.
The survey, carried out by IT consulting firm Capgemini, reveals that Ireland is slipping in terms of the online availability of key public services from central and local government. It is also slipping in terms of the sophistication of what’s being offered, such as two-way interaction.
The survey examined 14,000 web sites in the EU member states as well as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
The survey showed that some 50pc of a range of 20 basic public services for citizens and businesses — including income tax and social security benefits — are now available online in Ireland. This is the same level of 50pc that Ireland scored two years ago.
Stronger progress elsewhere in Europe means that Ireland has slipped from 12th place last year to 15th place this year in the league table of online public services available, behind Austria, Estonia, Malta, Sweden and Norway.
Ireland ranks as number 11 in terms of the maturity and sophistication of its online public services, falling from fourth place last year.
However, Ireland still scores highly with an online sophistication score of 84pc compared with the European average of 75pc.
Ireland scored 100pc on some public services for citizens for online sophistication, namely income taxes and job search services as well as enrolment in higher education.
On the other hand, Ireland only scored 47pc for online sophistication of a building permission application.
Ireland scored 66pc for birth and marriage certificate online sophistication and 75pc for car registration.
On services for businesses, Ireland scored 100pc in most areas including corporate tax, VAT, social contribution for employees and customs declaration.
On a more downbeat note, Ireland only scored 50pc for online sophistication of registration of a new company.
Applications of technology in Ireland highlighted in the report include the use of SMS or text messaging by the Revenue Commissioners. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners is now receiving as many enquiries by SMS as by telephone.
Looking to the future, the creation of the public services broker using the personal public service number (PPSN) as a unique identifier will result in the rollout of a public services card that will bundle the functions of several cards, such as a medical card or social services card, into one.
“2010 targets may feel far off, as the 2005 ones once did; however, that is no excuse for us to get complacent about making continued aggressive progress in using ICT to improve Government services across Europe,” said Graham Colclough, head of e-government at Capgemini.
“It is vital for ensuring we retain high levels of digital literacy. Making services available online is not enough. We must put heightened attention to user-centric inclusive services. It is evident that some countries have the former licked but are languishing in the latter.”
By John Kennedy