Emma Smith reports from the recent IDC conference on eGovernment (Dublin 3rd March 2003) where Tim McCarthy, Country Manager for Dell Ireland spoke. The aim of his talk was to show how the experience of getting an organisation like Dell to successfully compete online could be translated to the public service.
McCarthy believes that the key words in terms of the e-economy are access and service. In terms of service, Ireland is doing okay he says. The latest Accenture 2002 survey shows Ireland as 10th (up three) in the world for online public services. ‘Killer’ applications such as Revenue Online are helping to push Ireland up in the rankings.
However, on access “the picture is not as pretty” says McCarthy. PC penetration is around 35%. A crucial area to bring about major increases in PC usage and e-services is by educating the young in online use. Nevertheless the ratio of computers to every (primary and secondary) student is only 1:10. Compare this to the Nordic countries where penetration is around 70% and the computer student ratio is 4:10.
When we look at DSL and broadband, the picture worsens. Ireland is placed 51st out of 82 countries worldwide – even behind such countries as Nicaragua. As McCarthy says “there are big challenges in the access area”.
There are a number of existing issues for eGovernment, issues such as security and control, accountability across organisations and lack of a skilled workforce in the online area. Coupled with existing issues are a number of new requirements, which come from taxpayers, constituents, voters, suppliers, employees and partners.
“Citizen experience in the commercial space is influencing their expectations in the public sector.” For example, new statistics show that 55% of Americans say they are comfortable filing tax returns online. 78% want to vote electronically and 90% want to renew their driver’s license online.
It is possible for eGovernment to deliver a number of benefits to the user and to the internal workings of the public service, through greater efficiency and heightened accountability. It can deliver personalised interaction with separate agencies, customers and suppliers. It provides for access to a wealth of information with effective security measures.
However, the promise of eGovernment is not going to be an overnight process, warns McCarthy. “Its an evolution not a revolution”. In an evolution to fully functional online services and presence, he sees a three-phase process. In phase one information is made available online and there is some inter-agency interaction. Phase two sees the introduction of transactions, payments, registrations and extra-agency activity online. Ireland’s eGovernment initiative is mostly at phase one. In phase three (and McCarthy says this is where Dell is now), there are intelligent webs, customisable content, automated information and unique applications.
What is the winning approach?
Tim McCarthy shares his five keys to achieving the goal of eGovernment.
- Get everybody online
- Monitor customer experience
- Don’t wait for the perfect solution – Just get started
- Executive Sponsors
- Lead by example
From Autonomy to Collaboration: State of California
California’s Department of Justice’s CalGang provides multiple law enforcement agencies a centralised database of known California gang members that Police Officers can easily access via a web browser in the field.
For example motorcycle police have built in laptops in the motor cycles with access to information about gang members.
Access Study: The People’s Network- N.I.
The five Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards have invested in a new province-wide communications infrastructure, and common library management system software with 2,235 desktops and notebooks at 132 different library locations.
Everyone will have equal access to the same range of services in every public library, regardless of size or location.
People will be able to use the total library stock of Northern Ireland and use their membership ticket in any local library.
Mobile libraries will use notebook computers, complete with dial up GSM technology to facilitate easy access while on the move.
Phase 1: Ennis Information Age Town
In 1997, households, schools and libraries across the Ennis urban district area are equipped with 4,500 computers with free connection to the Internet and free rental for year one and half price for years two and three.
Over 2000 Ennis residents – ranging from 16 to 84 years of age – opted to do the computer usage test and over 90% were successful.
91% of the residents who originally applied have activated Internet accounts. Follow-on courses have been provided in web design, the Internet, e-mail and more recently ECDL which is offered to all Ennis residents at a reduced cost.
It is hoped by the end of this year, the people of Ennis will be able to pay their utilities, correspond with their local councillor and apply for planning permission all from the comfort of their own home.
Phase 2: University College Dublin
From September 2002 all first year Quinn School students will have participated in this initiative, which requires that they personally own a specially configured notebook computer.
All students receive a Preliminary Technology Course (PTC), on receipt of their notebook computer, in the week prior to the commencement of lectures.
Students use their notebook computers daily in classes and coursework. The entire class benefit from in class access to online international databases and interactive online discussion groups.
Wireless connectivity throughout the school means that students have access (from anywhere in the building) to the student intranet, course notes etc.
With thanks to Tim McCarthy for use of his slides for the case studies.
For further information on IDC Conferences: Contactinfo@conference.iol.ie