Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (109, 110)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

223 Mr. Broughan asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the targets and achievements under the new connection strategy for e-Government in 2003. [1684/04]

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Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

224 Mr. Broughan asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the targets for development of e-Government during 2004; and the reason the 2005 EU e-Government target is not being achieved. [1685/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223 and 224 together.

The second report of the Government's information society action plan, New Connections, will be published at the end of this month. The report demonstrates that considerable progress has been achieved in positioning Ireland as a leading location for knowledge-based economic activity and highlights the significance of the information society agenda in the overall context of the economy, both from an Irish and international perspective, and also its strong potential to promote a socially inclusive society.

At the end of 2003, the Cabinet Committee on the Information Society agreed the services to be prioritised for e-enablement, having regard to their potential user base and value in terms of efficiency and effectiveness or as flagship projects. The report lists those services that are prioritised for on-line delivery by 2005 and includes detailed information about services that are currently available on-line.

A more complex view of e-Government has evolved since the last progress report was published in February 2003. The Information Society Commission report on e-Government, published in November last year, warned of the danger of putting services on-line purely for the sake of putting them on-line and recommended that only services that had a tangible benefit and made economic sense in terms of return on investment should be made available on-line.

Against this background, the Government's objective in making services available on-line is to focus on common or more frequently used services where technology can have an impact in terms of convenience to the user and can demonstrate tangible efficiencies. Indeed, internationally, while there was an initial push for both Government and commercial organisations to establish a web presence, the emphasis is now increasingly towards getting maximum value by improving background business processes.

Also, the advances that are being made in mobile phone technologies and the high penetration rate that these devices have achieved mean that service providers have to look at this channel as a potentially viable means of delivery because it is a relatively low cost technology and it is ubiquitous. In other words, it may be more cost-efficient and more service effective to put government "on-the-line" rather than on-line. One aspect being examined, for example, is the use of contact centres where citizens can conduct enquiries and transactions over the telephone.

There is also an increasing realisation globally of the real benefits to be gained from the prudent exploitation of technologies in the internal mechanisms of government, particularly as a driver of public service modernisation. Taking a wider perspective on "service" means that public service organisations also consider the manner in which they use public resources on behalf of those who do not necessarily use "over the counter" services or are in receipt of State assistance, but who pay their taxes and have an expectation that they are being used to best effect. The challenge is to exploit technology where it can add value in a modernised public service.

The recent announcement on decentralisation has added a new dimension to the modernisation process and will require a new perspective on the deployment of information and communications technologies, ICTs, to support the work of a more geographically disparate organisation that must operate in a more connected or joined up way. This issue is currently being considered by my Department and the Department of Finance in consultation with other relevant Departments.