There has been a 23pc year-on-year increase in the use of Irish government online resources, it emerged yesterday.
According to the organisers of the Irish eGovernment Awards, due to take place next year, submissions for last year’s awards suggest the numbers of Irish citizens accessing online government resources are up due to more citizens having access to PCs, broadband and reduced concerns about security threats.
Another factor contributing to the rise in the use e-government resources was the pioneering work done by the Revenue Online Service (ROS) in driving usage.
Maeve Kneafsey of Elucidate, who is also involved in organising the awards, highlighted the success of a trial held by Fingal Co Council that saw Ireland’s e-participation highest across the four local representative authorities including Ireland, Spain, Slovakia and the UK.
“The Fingal Co Council project (http://www.fingalcoco.public-i.tv/site/) allows citizens to express their views and lobby for change,” said Kneafsey. “This project included webcasting council meetings, budget process and briefings. Participating citizens can access audio and video streams and a range of supporting information live on the internet. Citizens can send feedback via email or surveys and polls.
“Fingal recorded the highest number of citizens participating in the process during the project with 11,992 citizens participating virtually,” said Kneafsey. “I feel that some of the benefits include helping to deepen our trust in the democratic process, increased accessibility and demystifying the process for the ordinary individuals who only use the services, irregularly, or as required.”
Kneafsey added: “Too often I feel that public services, right across the board, from central government to local public bodies, are not given due recognition for the superb work being done by many of them in greatly increasing ease of use and significantly raising productivity through ICT initiatives. Public sector IT departments are giving a world-class lead, very often supported by very enlightened senior management.”
Kneafsey said public sector IT departments are every bit as good and as committed to high standards as their private sector counterparts. “I think that people who constantly ask for greater efficiencies in the public sector should get to know the quality of the work already being done by them online.
“Citizens are now offered a far wider range of online services from their local authorities and many of the most innovative ICT projects received and reviewed by the Irish eGovernment Awards judges, came from local authorities. These included paying your parking fine and refuse charges online.
“It also appears that participation, designed to encourage citizens to take part in the democratic process, seems to be experiencing a ‘second coming’ with local authorities encouraging direct contact and feedback with the council through their websites,” Kneafsey said.
A deadline of 8 December has been set for submissions for the 2007 Irish eGovernment Awards, which are now in their fifth year.
By John Kennedy