I have made driving the modernisation and digital agenda across the Justice Sector a key priority for me as Minister. My objective is to drive efficiency and deliver more accessible public services to all who need them.
So I am particularly pleased to have secured additional ICT spending in key areas to support this objective. This prioritisation of technology and modernisation will lead to a significant payback of improved public services right across the justice sector, which is providing vital public services to keep people safe.
For our highly trained Gardaí, time saved on dealing with paperwork in the station means more time on the frontline on high visibility, preventative patrols . This will also help the Government drive the reform programme outlined in ‘A Policing Service for the Future’, our implementation plan for the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
As the Deputy has noted, an additional €22 million has been provided for Garda ICT in 2021. This is in addition to the budget originally available under the capital programme 2016-2021, and brings the total Garda ICT budget to over €70 million for the second year in a row.
This is vital to supporting An Garda Síochána's comprehensive Digital Strategy 2019-2023, which was published last year incorporating key stakeholder engagement and which aims to ensure the vision for digital policing aligns with the organisation's other key strategies and priorities.
I am also pleased that a separate €7 million has been provided for additional mobile devices and related licensing and maintenance costs under the Garda Mobility project. These hand-held devices give Gardaí instant access to real-time, secure information on the roadside through a range of apps which enable them to scan registration plates, quickly identify forged or false driving licences, and detect disqualified drivers, untaxed cars and stolen vehicles. This follows a €4.9 million allocation for this project in 2020.
The bulk of the annual capital investment in Garda ICT is required to fund the day-to-day support of existing systems, licences and infrastructure. In addition to this investment, An Garda Síochána is using its ICT budget to deliver prioritised change initiatives including:
- the Schengen Information System, for which €6.2m has been provided in 2020 and €4.4m for 2021;
- the replacement of the Computer-Aided-Dispatch System, for which €2.1m has been provided in 2020 and €3.7m for 2021;
- enhanced Data Centre equipment for which €1.8m has been provided for 2020 and €7m for 2021; and
- the expansion of the Cyber Crime bureau for which €1.8m has been provided for 2021.
I look forward to continuing to engage with the Garda Commissioner as these and other important projects are rolled out and their benefits are realised.