Minister slams growing
e-government controversy

10 Feb 2004

The Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Mary Hanafin TD, has blamed “e-government hype” for negative reaction to the recently launched multi-million euro e-voting initiative.

Speaking at the IDC E-government Conference in Dublin this morning, Hanafin, who has been dubbed the ‘e-minister’ for her role in driving the information society agenda, said the excessive focus on technology itself rather than the services it can deliver had “caused some people to be wary” of new technology. As a result there was opposition to e-voting even among those who would normally embrace new technology.

“The people who are buying tickets online and taking money out of ATMs are the very people who are questioning whether e-voting in a machine is effective,” she remarked.

While implicitly criticising the IT industry for pushing technology too hard, Hanafin also acknowledged that the Government had helped shape the ‘wrong’ attitudes towards e-voting. “We are to blame because we’ve focused on the technology. This focus has been wrong. We have been saying the [e-voting] machines are wonderful instead of saying here are the benefits that you as a citizen will get or the services that will be able to access.”

Hanafin added that the e-voting controversy had distracted attention from the Government’s excellent record in e-government. “The implementation of [e-government] services is something that’s moved along very quietly and very well over the last few years,” she said, giving examples of new and existing projects benefiting citizens of every age group.

But she again stressed that a new approach was needed to sell the benefits of e-government. “We need to go there and tell you not what the technology can do for you but what you can do with the technology.”

She also warned that in moving towards implementing electronic systems, the Government must not become anonymous in its dealings with the public. “The value of good government lies in its interaction with people; there is a danger that we lose sight of this as we focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of the systems.”

By Brian Skelly