The recent medical card debacle could easily have been avoided if the Irish Government had moved more services online in order to save money.
“The real savings that Government could make are very simple,” said Maeve Kneafsey, awards director of the Eircom-sponsored Irish eGovernment Awards and managing director of consultancy Elucidate.
“Why not drive more extensive services online? In the same way as Gardaí were given clerical support to let the Garda on the beat get on with the business of fighting crime, the same could happen with the public service by a determined drive to use technology and the web at every possible opportunity,” Kneafsey said.
Kneafsey cited a report released by the EU Commission Directorate for Information Society and Media, in which Ireland ranks 17 in online sophistication levels for our online government services, just ahead of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey and trailing behind Italy, Denmark and Belgium.
“The focus should be on allowing citizens to tap into self-services when we need to communicate or do business with Ireland’s Government,” Kneafsey said. “The drive would be way beyond merely providing access to information. The benchmark for Ireland’s eGovernment services would be to provide full, two-way interaction and case handling between the public and Government via the web.”
She said that Ireland should invest in training those most resistant to moving online. In particular retired people and other adults should be trained about the benefits and how to use online government self-services.
“At the recent Ireland Government eSymposium which we ran, we learnt that Estonia has trained over 7.5pc of the population or 100,000 people in the use of online services in just three years. Over 72pc of those trained continued to use computers and the internet,” Kneafsey observed.
The closing date for entries for the Irish eGovernment Awards is this Friday 31 October.
By John Kennedy