No plans for a Government CIO – Rabbitte

13 Feb 2012

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte TD has poured cold water on the likelihood of a State chief information officer (CIO) to manage all State IT expenditure.

“There has been no progress on a Government CIO and this is unlikely to change,” Rabbitte said today during a Q&A at the launch of a joint Government/EMC cloud innovation centre that will be open to SMEs and the public sector to test new applications.

The idea of a Government CIO was first mooted in 2009 by the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

However, since then there has been no appointment and the matter hasn’t resolved itself since the new Government came to power last year.

The ultimate question is does the State need a CIO?

The real answer to this question appears to be no, because as revealed in December by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin TD a different tack will be taken in relation to the management of the State’s IT assets.

As part of a proposed a set of plans that will see the number of people employed in the public sector drop by 37,500 to 282,500 by 2015, Howlin recommended appointing a Public Service CIO Council to assist and drive ICT and e-government initiatives across the public sector, beginning this quarter.

So, no State CIO – instead a Public Service CIO Council.

Time to learn the lessons of PPARS and move on

At the EMC event this afternoon Minister Rabbitte acknowledged that there is a need to break free of the ‘silo mentality’ that prevents State IT systems between various departments from talking to each other.

He said that plans are afoot to bring forward a Government Cloud Strategy and discussions are underway with various industry leaders. “In tandem with this we are working on a Cloud Computing Research Centre.”

Rabbitte said that greater efficiencies are needed in terms of State IT and said that a new post code system that will give homes and businesses a “unique identifier” is about to go out to tender.

In relation to e-government and greater efficiencies that can be gained from cloud computing, Minister Rabbitte says its time to no longer allow the memory of IT failures like PPARS get in the way of progress.

“We hope that the system has learned and in terms of strategy we will be looking for the capacity of the cloud to help resolve issues that were unthinkable when PPARS was on board.”

He asked openly was PPARS a system failure in Government or how the project was managed and delivered.

“These questions are being looked at.”

Pointing for the need to use IT to ensure greater efficiencies in departments like Social Protection he said: “The investment would be minor given the annual €20bn budget [for that department] and we have to come up to speed to operate the system in a way it was designed rather than allowing waste or fraud to happen.

“A cloud for government could eliminate risk,” Rabbitte added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years