Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Ceisteanna (18, 19)

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

102 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if plans to develop and manage information technology to support the delivery of his Department’s mission and objectives, as outlined in its mission statement, including a review of IT strategies of former Departments and the new departmental IT strategy for 2003-06, will be affected by his Department’s and agencies’ relocation to Killarney; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6110/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

125 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the original cost projects for plans to develop and manage information technology to support the delivery of his Department’s mission and objectives, as outlined in its mission statement, including a review of IT strategies of former Departments and the new departmental IT strategy for 2003; the projected monetary and percentage increase envisaged as a result of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6115/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (3 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 125 together.

The decision to relocate the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in Killarney will not affect the plans to develop and manage information technology in support of delivering the Department's objectives. The relocation will mean that the application and use of information technology will become central to the efficient delivery of services and communications.

The first statement of strategy 2003-05 of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism provided for a review of the two information technology strategies of the former Departments of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and Tourism Sport and Recreation, and for the development of a new IT strategy for the period 2003 to 2006. This review has been carried out and a new IT strategy has been agreed.

The new strategy identifies a number of new projects to support delivery of objectives set out in the Department's mission statement. These comprise a specially made and developed management information system comprising a sophisticated financial accounting database system, the estimated cost of which to 2008 is €1.1 million; a new human resource management system comprising an enhanced database system developed on PeopleSoft-HRMS software — the PeopleSoft product was selected by the Department of Finance for development as the human resource management system for the Civil Service — the estimated cost of which is €172,000; and the installation of a new suite of security products for the Department's local area network to enhance the Department's ability to protect itself from potentially damaging scenarios associated with the world wide web. The main elements of the improved security resource comprise a superior anti-virus product with filtering capability and a firewall system capable of meeting the security requirements of the Government's data virtual private network link completed at the end of 2003, the cost of which was €23,000.

Additionally, the IT strategy provides for the ongoing replacement of network hardware and software as dictated by normal end-of-life scenarios, and an annual budget allocation of €150,000 is available to meet this need. If the Department is decentralised to a building in Killarney equipped with a modern networking architecture, it should be possible to relocate all the existing software and some of the hardware and systems to the new location. It is not anticipated that significant additional costs will accrue to the projects that can be attributed to decentralisation. Some additional hardware and connectivity costs may arise but it is too early to quantify these.

Has the Minister received any extra funding for connectivity costs? What estimates have been done for video-conferencing facilities, for example? I know the Minister will not plaster the beautiful Kerry landscape with "Welcome to O'Donoghue country" posters but, given the huge furore over the decentralisation programme, he will acknowledge that it might be difficult to get staff to move to Kerry, regardless of how beautiful it is, if they have been working in Dublin and are used to it.

Has the Minister considered the impact of IT training on people who will move from other Departments to his one? Will there be an additional cost for the training of staff? Is the local loop unbundled sufficiently in the Kerry region to cater for broadband communications? Given that tourism is a face to face, hands-on type of business, does the Minister acknowledge video-conferencing is essential and that we need proper access facilities and proper training from an IT perspective?

The strategy statement said the IT strategy would be in place by April 2003. Was it in place by then? Will the mid-term review of the IT strategy due to be completed by the end of 2004 be completed by then? What are the financial implications, if any, of the relocation and the IT extras which will need to be tidied up by the end of the year?

The new IT strategy to be developed for the Department was to have been developed for the period 2003 to 2006. I understand the review has been carried out and that the IT strategy has been agreed. There is no question or doubt but that video-conferencing is desirable. It will be useful in the decentralisation of Departments to the various locations.

I have no doubt about the capacity of Killarney, from a communications perspective, to ensure a successful home for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. It will add greatly to the town and to the county. It is appropriate that a Department of this nature should locate in Ireland's tourism capital. It is something to which many people look forward.

I do not anticipate any IT difficulties. I agree it is desirable that staff are trained in new methodologies and I understand this is ongoing. I am as confident as I possibly can be that all will go smoothly.