Poor funding a major obstacle to e-government

19 Nov 2007

Securing adequate funding is seen as the main obstacle to more government services being offered online, leading public servants have warned in a new survey.

The vast majority (90pc) of the 42 Irish public servants surveyed by internet strategist Elucidate believe that technology initiatives they have carried out have made it easier for the public to contact the Government than it was two years ago.

Some 82pc believe new technology has made their units work more efficiently.

Maeve Kneafsey of Elucidate, which will co-host the forthcoming eGovernment Awards, and who was last week appointed chair of the Irish Internet Association, says that 85.4pc of Ireland’s senior public servants believe e-government has led to significant customer service gains.

She said that faster access to information was cited by 61pc, while increased productivity was cited by 41.5pc as the highest rated benefit of e-government.

However, she warned that funding was an issue that may hold back future initiatives.

“It may be worth Minister Cowen’s time to note that securing adequate funding was given as one of the main obstacles to more services being offered online. Yet ‘online’ can deliver greater efficiencies with the public having access on a 24/7 basis, at a time that people choose, not just during ‘normal’ office hours.

“Just think of the many, many thousands who use the Revenue Online Service as well as the tremendous success of the Motor Tax Office’s online service. While the Minister is at it, he and his government colleagues should also note that all of the respondents said there should be more incentives for people to use e-government initiatives, such as the extra time that is already allowed for people to pay taxes online,” Kneafsey said.

Kneafsey added that if the Irish Government is serious about getting more for less, in gaining greater productivity from all public services, then the future has got to be online.

“A big drive towards e-government could deliver a double whammy of being self-financing while giving the taxpayer an improved service. One final figure that is telling is that over two thirds of the respondents said that driving people to use online services was their No 1 priority, but almost the same number said they needed more resources to publicise the services,” Kneafsey said.

By John Kennedy