ISC to be discontinued

22 Nov 2004

The present Information Society Commission (ISC) will end its existence on 31 December and will not be re-established, has learned. An informed source close to Government said that the Taoiseach’s Department has decided to disband the ISC as it believes it has “served its purpose”.

The ISC was first established in the late Nineties with Accenture partner Vivienne Jupp as chair as an independent advisory reporting directly to the Taoiseach’s Department to help the Government shape policy on issues as diverse as e-learning, broadband and social inclusion. Its membership was derived of social partners and business and academic professionals.

However, in 2001 the first ISC ceased to exist and it was 11 months before the present 21-strong commission headed by Professor Danny O’Hare was established. In the past three years the ISC has published numerous reports on key technology policy areas such as e-government, Ireland’s digital divide, R&D at third level and broadband. Earlier this week the ISC published a damning report warning the Government that its plans to place Ireland in the top 10 of OECD countries in terms of broadband penetration would not be reached.

The present ISC is to cease to exist on 31 December and has learned that there are no plans to establish another ISC in the years ahead.

An informed government source said: “There will not be another ISC. That is final. The ISC has served its purpose and has done as much as it can do. It is now past its sell-by date. It has tackled a set of agendas, most have progressed to a reasonable degree and there are one or two that haven’t. The idea was to embed an information society agenda into the DNA of the Irish Government and that objective has been achieved and it is now up to other government departments to run with that agenda,” the source said.

According to Brian McCaulfield, a civil servant working in the Taoiseach’s department working with the ISC, the present commission’s existence will end on 31 December, but could not confirm plans to disband the commission altogether. “All I can say at this point is that the ISC project is ‘under consideration’ within the department. Will a new commission be appointed next year? We don’t know. That’s a decision for the Government.”

McCaulfield confirmed that there has been criticism that the current ISC had too many members and that a number of ideas have been bounced around about creating a smaller commission that would tackle agendas such as broadband within designated timeframe. “It’s a matter purely for Government what shape the ISC would take or whether there will be a future ISC. These commissions have their uses because while Government departments are laws unto themselves, independent bodies can make recommendations that can carry some weight.”

According the Department of Finance’s Book of Estimates published last Thursday, some €716k has been sanctioned for the ISC, a 2pc increase on last year.

However, an informed Government source corrected this: “There will continue to be an Information Society Policy Unit within the Department of Taoiseach and that’s where that funding will go. For example, another policy unity known as eInclusion [earmarked for €1m in the Book of Estimates] exists and that came out of the ISC’s recommendationss.

“The fact is the ISC will not be re-established in the New Year. It has run its course,” the source said.

By John Kennedy