Global governments go slow on e-initiatives
Ireland has slipped one place and is now ranked 11th out of 22 countries worldwide in terms of maturity and scope of public services available on the internet, according to an Accenture global e-government leadership report.
The Republic is ranked behind some of its key European competitors such as Germany, UK and Denmark. However, it scores better than France, the Netherlands and Spain. Canada was ranked top of the survey, with an overall maturity score of 71pc, while South Africa was ranked bottom of the 22-nation survey with just 13pc.
The key challenge for the year ahead — in light of the slowdown in the implementation of the Irish e-government programme — will be to focus on priorities and continue to target services that deliver most value for money, the report concludes. Ireland needs to focus more on customer satisfaction if it wants to maintain its position in the global e-government league, according to the report.
"There has been a delay in the implementation of some e-government projects, but this has been recognised by Minister Hanafin's progress report on the implementation of New Connections and remedial action is being taken to sort out problem areas," according to Seamus Mulconry, manager at Accenture.
The tendering process for the Public Services Broker (PSB), the electronic clearing house for a wide range of public services, has stalled as a result of a Government re-think on its e-initiatives and is holding up a dozen or more ancillary services.
"The broker is not the entire vision for e-government in Ireland, there is more to it than that. Ireland's e-government vision will not only change the delivery of public services, but will also change how the government operates, as in the backend of government," Mulconry adds.
As in the case of the dotcom revolution, e-government has experienced highs and lows. In November 2001, Ireland came out top in an EU benchmarking exercise that measured progress in the delivery of online public services.
E-government will have a profound change in personal and professional dealings with the State and, importantly, it will mean major changes for the Government itself. Online services already up and running include business and public portals Basis and Oasis, as well as the Courts Service, the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, FÁS Job Bank and the Land Registry. The Revenue On-Line Service has achieved international success by selling some of its components to the French government, ranked 12th in Accenture's report.
In another report, compiled by the Information Society Commission (ISC), an independent advisory body to the Government, it was revealed that last year 34pc of the Irish population had access to the internet from home. The percentage of internet users visiting government websites in Ireland is relatively low at 35pc, compared to an EU average of 49pc, the ISC reports. Also, Ireland has five computers connected to the internet per 100 pupils — falling below the EU average of 5.9. This figure compares with 25 internet-connected PCs per 100 pupils in Denmark, 12 in Finland, 11 in Sweden, 10.6 in the UK. The rate of broadband take-up in Ireland is currently 0.1pc. Internationally, take-up rates range from 1pc to 6pc, with Korea having a significant higher take-up at over 16pc, the commission reports.
In addition, it states that the average home user spends 3.5 hours online a month. This compares to 11 hours monthly in the US and seven hours monthly in the UK. Ireland's e-government strategy does, however, envisage that people without computers in the home with an internet connection could access public services by visiting new one-stop shop offices or use the phone. But it remains unclear the extent to which these offices and call centres will be rolled out nationwide.
By Lisa Deeney