Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 3 Dec 1997

Vol. 484 No. 1

Ceisteanna—Questions. - Government Web Server.

John Bruton


3 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the way in which his Department decides the information which is placed on his Department's home page on the Internet; the individuals in his Department who are responsible for communicating this information to the Department of Finance; the cost, if any, to his Department of maintaining its home page on the Internet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21155/97]

The Department of Finance has responsibility for the update and maintenance of the Government web server. With effect from 6 October 1997, each Department-Office has responsibility for the update of its own home pages.

A major review and reconstruction of my Department's web site is currently under way. The review will address issues of content, structure, design and enhancement to make it more user friendly. The reconstructed web site should be operative early in the new year. It is not possible to quantify separately the cost of departmental staff resources devoted to the reconstruction. It is, however, intended to engage the services of web page designers during the process, the cost of which has yet to be determined.

Pending the major review, does the Taoiseach believe his Department should at least keep their home page up to date?

A technical problem arose when the Department of Finance removed its facility from the Taoiseach's Department and the entire system was put out of action. I am not sure if the system is back in action yet. It has not been updated for some weeks.

Does the Taoiseach agree that as the Government seeks to give the lead in the matter of information technology, it is rather odd his web site page on the Internet is so out of date that it gives the former Deputy Ray Burke as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews as Minister for Defence and Deputy Smith as a Minister of State? The information on the Government is months old and under the heading Programme for Government it gives the programme for Government of the rainbow coalition, not the current Government's programme.

It was a better programme.

That, of course, is a wise choice.

Is the Taoiseach aware that, furthermore, under the heading What's New in the Department of the Taoiseach, the Taoiseach's web site shows a blank page?

Back to the future.

Is there a page dealing with prisoners on the Internet?

As a contribution towards a Christmas present for Deputy Bruton, I hope to have a reconstructed web site. The web site has not been in use for several weeks.

It is being visited, it is merely not being updated.

New information is not being inserted.

There is just nobody at home.

They are not able to operate it, they are technically frozen at 6 October. I hope it will be fixed soon, following which it is intended to update it a few days a week. The problem is a technical one.

If it is a political one, we can solve it.

It is a not political one.

While I take in good faith what the Taoiseach said about improving the web site, will there be a rule of thumb for the time lapse between the publication of information and its appearance on the Internet? Will it be shortened to a stated time? How can people have confidence in the system if information does not appear on it within a very short time of being published?

Until 6 October, the Department of Finance updated the web sites for all Departments. A person has been nominated in my Department to update a couple of times a week relevant speeches on Partnership 2000, Northern Ireland, changes in personnel and other such matters. That is the procedure that will be followed. Unfortunately, because of the current difficulty that person is unable to operate.

When sanctioning the decision which resulted in freezing the input of data on the Taoiseach's web site, did it not occur to the Minister for Finance to at least insert an error slip on the site so that people visiting it would know the information is out of date? Surely it should have occurred to someone in the Departments of Finance or the Taoiseach that this should have been explained on the web site? It should not have required a parliamentary question to the Taoiseach to bring the information to light.

As the Deputy is aware, this question has been on the Order Paper for a number of weeks, but we were not able to resolve the problem. The technical problem has not been sorted out. Apparently from the time the web site was set up — although I do not know why — the Taoiseach's Department was linked up separately. When the system changed in the Department of Finance the Taoiseach's Department was isolated and people in the Department have not been able to resolve the problem. This was brought to light in the Department after 6 October. We have had to forget about what is there and reconstruct the website. When it is up to date it will operate under the arrangements I outlined to Deputy Sargent. We have not been able to correct the problem since it was highlighted in October. I have been asking about this for the past three weeks and have been told it will be technically right by Christmas. The skills exist to update the website on a regular basis; the technical issues are the problem. I am not a technical expert on correcting websites. I can do many things but not that.

The Taoiseach gave interviews on Information Technology last week.