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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 7 Nov 2000

Vol. 525 No. 2

Ceisteanna – Questions. - Department of the Taoiseach Website.

John Bruton


4 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if, further to his reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 3 to 5 on 24 May 2000, the intranet in his Department was brought into operation before the summer; if his Department's new website was in place before the autumn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19246/00]

John Bruton


5 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the criteria used by his Department to decide the subject matter hosted on his Department's website; if the criteria has changed recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20320/00]

John Bruton


6 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the number of live webcasts he has made from his Department; the number planned for later in 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21100/00]

Ruairí Quinn


7 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the progress that has been made with regard to the development of his Department's website; if it is intended to update it frequently, particularly in regard to Government statements or statements by the Taoiseach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24059/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 7, inclusive, together.

The Department of the Taoiseach intranet was brought into operation in June 2000. This is an internal Departmental resource and all members of staff have access to it. It uses web technologies to improve access to information resources and to improve the departmental information base. Enhancements to the design and the information content are ongoing.

In relation to the website, my Department is considering the strategies to be adopted to enhance its utility for communicating with clients and the public. It needs a better client oriented focus.

Regard must also be had to the strategic plans being prepared by Departments generally for the development of electronic public services. To assist it in its task, the Department proposes to seek external expertise, and tenders for this are to issue shortly. In the meantime, work is continuing on assembling potentially useful content for the website which will be updated as frequently as necessary. There has been no recent change of criteria to decide the content matter hosted on the Department's website. Criteria will be developed when a decision is reached on the strategic approach to be adopted.

The first ever webcast by my Department was made on 21 September last at the Reach launch from Government Buildings. At present no further webcasts are planned, but this may change as the situation merits.

Did the Taoiseach measure the number of hits he had with his webcast?

Was he afraid to measure it?

Why did he not do so then? Will the Taoiseach indicate to the House the criteria used for deciding the material that goes on the website of his Department?

Most of the major statements, policy initiatives or information considered relevant to the public is put on the website. It must also fit in with the plans for the development of electronic public services, the Reach programme and the Government action plan for the information society, which involve any services useful to the public.

As I said in my reply, I do not consider the Department of the Taoiseach website marvellous in that regard. We must examine further the criteria that will help the public. Some other Departments have moved ahead in this area, such as the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs and others which deal more with the public. They have enhanced their websites in the past year or so. That is what is being examined at present in the Department. Most of the usual information that is of interest to more than a small number is put on the website.

Does the Taoiseach agree that the benefit of any of this new technology depends on its regular update and maintenance? Will he explain why, until yesterday, the last update on his Department's website was 11 October in which the announcement was made regarding the Taoiseach welcoming the contract for the Dublin Port Tunnel? The next item to go on the website was his belated, if welcome, address to the European Movement yesterday. Will the Taoiseach outline if he is satisfied with current arrangements within his Department for the maintenance and updating of the website? If not, what changes, if any, does he propose to make?

As I said in my statement, and not wishing to repeat myself, the website is not as good as it could be or as good as some of those of other Departments which are more focused on dealing with the public. We are examining how we can communicate better with clients who use the Department. Major statements, such as yesterday's statement which was put on the website last night, or any of the more important statements made which would be accessed in Brussels or elsewhere are put on it. Not everything is put on the website because there would not be a great number of hits if that were done.

The internal end as regards messages and notes is fine, but we try to help the public wherever we can. There is no doubt the public is using the Internet much more frequently. Recent surveys show that even in the inner city 46% of the people use it for information. The position has changed in two years and Departments generally, and mine in particular, should provide information in whatever area people seek it.

Does the Taoiseach agree his website should be updated every day?

If there are matters of importance, they should be put on the website. However, not every notice would be of relevance to the public and should not, therefore, be put on the website. Important speeches or those required by a wider audience are put on it immediately.

Does the Taoiseach not agree the speech he made to the CBI in Birmingham on Sunday would be considered important? Why has it not been put on the website?

I am not sure whether it has been.

It has not.

I know yesterday's speech has been put on the website. It was a very good speech, if I say so myself.

It may or may not have been – I cannot read it on my computer.

I thought the Deputy did not want it—

I am quite happy to read about the Taoiseach from a distance, it is others whom I would prefer to work with on closer terms. Does the Taoiseach agree—

That is terrible, I am hurt.

I am sure the Taoiseach is, I would expect him to be. Does he agree this is not an acceptable practice and that he should have a much more up-to-date website? Given how much the Taoiseach talks about technology, he should set an example by updating his site with relevant material every day. Why is one of the highlights of the Taoiseach's website the tender documents for the national stadium at Abbotstown, given that responsibility for that has been transferred to another Minister?

Responsibility for the stadium is being transferred. However, as I stated during Question Time a few weeks ago, it is still in my Estimate for this year.

As I said at the outset, and to repeat it for the fourth time, there has been no recent change in the criteria. Improvements and enhancements are ongoing. We are examining strategies to adapt and enhance communications from the Department's website. In the meantime, speeches of relevance are – or at least should be – put up on the site as quickly as possible.