NI firm to conduct EU e-government study


20 Dec 2005

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A Northern Ireland (NI)-based consultancy firm has been awarded a £250k sterling contract by the European Commission to survey e-government initiatives taken by 25 EU member states and Norway to measure their impact on citizens and highlight steps needed to further commercialise the opportunities available through the re-use and re-sale of public sector information.

It is believed that data produced by the two-year study, which was awarded to NI firm Helm Corporation will enable the commission to test the effectiveness of the EU directive on the use of public sector information (PSI) and will consider how governments make information available quickly, effectively and cheaply.

The project, entitled Measuring European Public Sector Information Resources, was awarded as a result of an open competition and Helm will undertake the study in combination with the Netherlands Public Administration consultancy Zenc.

Helm will analyse the findings by monitoring the evolution of the PSI re-use over time and putting that into context with certain key framework conditions (such as transparency, discrimination, charging principles and accountability), also allowing to measure the maximising of value from increased trading of PSI, where appropriate through macro-economic indicators.

Damian Duffy, European director of Helm, commenting on the tender award, said: “It tasks us to develop the essential methodology to obtain the data and to set up the system needed to produce it to a defined deadline that will enable the commission to determine what steps need to be taken to ensure that people can easily obtain the public sector information they require and that companies are able to explore new opportunities to access and market this information.

“We will then carry out an in-depth analysis of the data and make recommendations for action by the commission that will help create a more open and competitive market for PSI,” he adds.

Formed in NI in 1990 Helm has grown to become a leading consultancy house for the public and private sectors in Ireland and the UK offering a wide range of services nationally and internationally in management consultancy, ICT, human resources, communications and a range of other such services. As well as offices across the North, the company has offices in Dublin, London, Bangladesh and Hungary. The company also has partner offices in various countries in Africa.

Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s managing director of innovation and capability development, welcoming the company’s latest success in Europe, said: “Helm is an outstanding success story. It has harnessed public sector consultancy skills, developed in NI, to create a globally competitive business.

“Another important feature of the company’s business approach is the development of strategic alliances in target markets and business sectors. As a result, it is now recognised by agencies such as the EU, the Department for International Development and the World Bank as a first-line supplier of expert skills,” she added.

Helm has established a network of researchers in each of the 25 member states and Norway to undertake the study at local level. It will scan the relevant websites for public sector data in defined areas, such as business, geography, legal issues, meteorology, society and transport. Helm has also developed an online questionnaire and database for use by the researchers.

The PSI directive is regarded as an important step in further European integration and is designed to change the way governments think and work. Feedback from the survey will enable the commission to pinpoint and tackle obstacles to opening up the market for public sector information.

By John Kennedy