Ireland’s e-government efforts plateau

5 May 2004

For the second year in a row, Ireland has ranked eleventh in the world in terms of overall e-government maturity, a new study by Accenture reveals.

The report, ‘E-government Leadership: High Performance, Maximum Value,’ finds that, in common with other countries in the report, Ireland has reached a plateau of e-government maturity, particularly in terms of service breadth, depth and customer relationship management. The report contends that this may be due in part to a refocusing of e-government efforts on systems that should boost Ireland’s e-government growth in the coming years.

Vivienne Jupp, the Dublin-based managing partner for Accenture’s global e-government services, was optimistic about the progress that would be made in the coming years.

“While Ireland’s e-government maturity has levelled off somewhat over the past two years, it is now once again poised for strong growth. The Government is aware of what steps it needs to take to move forward and most crucially it has re-charted its e-government path.”

The study indicates, however, that there is work to be done in promoting the uptake of online services among Irish citizens. Approximately 50pc of the population in Ireland are regular internet users, yet only 60pc of these have ever visited a government website, pointing to a real need for better communication. In fact, one of the key findings of the survey is that, across the world, promoting e-government is a growing priority.

“While there appears to be good understanding of the potential for e-government to save time and money, there is a considerable gap in citizen expectations that it can actually deliver on that promise,” Jupp noted. “This poses a challenge for those striving to become high performance governments. They need to find innovative new ways to market their e-government offerings, improve citizen awareness of the benefits, and increase greater take-up of online services.”

For the fourth consecutive year, Canada took top spot among the 22 countries covered in survey, following by Singapore and the US in joint second and Australia, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, which were tied in fourth place. France ranked eighth, the Netherlands and the UK tied for ninth, and Belgium, Ireland and Japan jointly held the eleventh position.

For the first time this year, the report questioned regular internet users in addition to senior executives to learn about their attitudes and practices towards e-government. While citizens around the world have generally positive attitudes about online government services, a majority only uses government websites to gather information on things like tourism or health rather than conduct actual transactions such as applying for passports or filing taxes online.

Saving time and money are the primary reasons that citizens who use the internet said they would conduct transactions with governments online. However, despite such interest in online government services, the study found that citizens rarely take advantage of them.

The top reasons that the internet users surveyed gave for rarely or never visiting government websites include difficulty finding the correct site, ease of conducting business by telephone or in person, on-line privacy concerns and internet security issues.

By Brian Skelly