Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (96)

Jonathan O'Brien


96. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Finance the reason links from search engines or other sources to documents found on the website of his Department now link to a Department home page rather than the document itself; his plans to rectify the situation; the advice taken before the change was implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35325/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

In relation to my Department, I wish to advise that ICT services are provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) under the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Government department websites are currently undergoing a significant change in how they present online content to citizens and businesses, with a view to making them easier to use and more accessible to all members of society.  Over time, department websites are being moved to one single website,, giving people a one stop shop for accessing information on government services and organisations.

It is generally seen as best practice to pursue the consolidation of public service information into one consistent accessible website. The most digitally advanced countries within the EU (see the EU eGovernment Benchmark 2018 - Denmark, Estonia, Austria, Latvia and Malta), have already moved to a single digital gateway approach. Furthermore, a 2016 market research exercise carried out by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found that the concept of a single, online portal for government was positively received by both the general public and representative bodies alike. This view was again confirmed by a subsequent market research exercise carried out in late 2018.

Following a government decision to migrate all ministerial department websites to, work has proceeded on this basis.  So far, 5 departments have moved their website content to - the Departments of the Taoiseach; Public Expenditure and Reform; Rural and Community Development; Transport, Tourism and Sport; and Finance.

As a part of the migration to, content from websites are reworked and moved into the website (for example, efforts are made to make the services content easier to understand through the use of plain English).  Post migration, the internet addresses for the new content within is different from the addresses of the content, including documents, on the old websites.

The migration of a website to a new one with a different address necessarily breaks links to the old website content from external sources.  This is suffered for all website migrations, including the department websites in question.  This issue is temporary in nature as search engines re-index content on the internet, and also as external sites (that are not search indexes) update their links to point to the new location of content.  Over time, the issue of finding broken links and being redirected to a department’s homepage on will become less and less frequent, and will eventually cease to occur.

To reduce the impact of the temporary ill effects caused by these website migrations, the occurrence of visitors to broken links within is monitored via site analytics. In conjunction with each department’s content manager, work is continuously being undertaken where possible to redirect such broken links to the correct and new location within Furthermore, prior to website migration into, work is undertaken to pre-emptively set up such redirects to popular content so as to reduce the likelihood of this issue arising.

Between search engine re-indexing and the ongoing efforts based on website analytics, the user experience of in regards to the matter the Deputy refers will improve over time.