The European Commission’s recent Digital Economy and Society Index ranks Ireland 8th out of 28 Member States performing slightly above the EU average. Ireland ranks 9th for digital public services, down one place on last year. eGovernment use is significantly above the EU average with Ireland ranked 9th for online service completion and 10th for open data, which is above the EU average.
Public Service ICT Strategy
The Public Service ICT Strategy, ‘Delivering better outcomes and efficiency through innovation and excellence in ICT’
, was approved by Government and launched by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in January 2015. The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) is driving forward its implementation, working together with Departments and agencies across the Public Service. The Strategy consists of five streams – Build to Share, Digital First, Data as an Enabler, Improve Governance and Increase Capability.
When implemented, the Strategy will create a new model for ICT delivery in the Public Service and better outcomes for citizens, business and public servants through a more integrated, shared and digital environment.
In terms of Governance, the CIO Executive Council monitors progress on the implementation of the ICT Strategy and the OGCIO continues to work on policy development for the application of ICT across the Public Service. In terms of Increasing Capability, the OGCIO, in conjunction with the new Head of Civil Service HR and the CIO Council, is leading the development of plans to address recruitment, retention, mobility, and professionalisation of ICT staff in the Civil Service.
Build to Share
The Build to Share initiative in the ICT Strategy comprises three core elements: Government Networks; Common Applications; and Common ICT Infrastructure - the Government Cloud.
Government Networks offer cost-effective, resilient, carrier-grade, high speed network services for voice, video and data to all Public Service Bodies. Government Networks is a cornerstone of Build to Share as the service that enables secure inter-agency connectivity. Public Service Bodies in 70 towns and cities around the country now have access to high speed, resilient network connectivity and the rollout plan is for 50 towns to be connected by the end of 2016.
An ICT baseline exercise, carried out in early 2015, highlighted the potential for consolidation and rationalisation of ICT technical infrastructure to reclaim expensive real estate, lower computer room / data centre running costs and deliver efficiencies. Proposals to develop the Build to Share Government Cloud were progressed during 2015 and a range of procurement exercises will be initiated in 2016.
The ICT Strategy identifies an opportunity for a suite of common applications to be developed centrally for use by all Departments to drive efficiencies and savings. eSubmissions, a common application to manage submissions internally in Departments, has been developed and was successfully piloted with one Department in 2015. The OGCIO will continue to rollout this application during 2016, working with Departments to complete the on-boarding process. The development of two further common applications, ePQ and eCorrespondence, will be progressed during 2016. Further common applications projects, such as eFOI and eDocs, are planned for 2017.
As well as centrally led Build to Share initiatives, many examples exist in the broader Public Service. The Department of Education and Skills developed a project to improve the Post-Primary Online Database system. This resulted in a nationwide database linked to each post-primary school and is the first system of its kind in Europe. The project has facilitated greater efficiency and better communication between schools and the Department. By gathering real-time information from multiple sources, it informs important policy developments and the system is now utilised by all post-primary schools in the State.
The SOLAS Programme and Learner Support System is designed to produce data that will support policy formulation and inform programme planning to ensure labour market demands are met. In addition, the new database will facilitate data exchanges between SOLAS, the Education and Training Boards, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Social Protection. It will also have the capacity to exchange data with other state agencies such as Revenue, the Higher Education Authority and Quality and Qualifications Ireland in the future.
The Local Government Sector, through the Local Government Management Agency, established the ICT Back Office. This provides ICT infrastructure for a range of shared services such as payroll, email, shared CRM, eReturns, Building Control Management System and Accounts Payable.
As part of its modernisation programme, the Department of Social Protection (DSP) has moved into the delivery of online services. Since January 2016, customers are able to make an application for a jobseeker’s benefit payment online for the first time using the MyWelfare.ie
portal. MyWelfare.ie is designed to enable clients to access personalised DSP services by creating a personal account. The portal has been operational since July 2015 and currently allows customers to book PPSN (Personal Public Service Number) and Public Services Card appointments.
The Office of the Revenue Commissioner’s myAccount makes it easier than ever to be tax compliant. myAccount is a single, secure and trustworthy online application, which provides access to services for taxpayers using mobile devices. This puts customer needs and experiences at the heart of its online capabilities, while also providing a highly secure service. This single access point was introduced in September 2015 and allows customers to access a whole series of Revenue services including PAYE Anytime, the Home Renovation Incentive, Local Property Tax, the eForm 12, myEnquiries, eTax Registration and eTax Clearance. There have been over 150,000 registrations and 1.2 million logins in the first six months of operation.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has developed an improved customer experience through exploiting advanced technologies. In 2015, the CSO launched their redesigned website to improve customer experience through the use of electronic releases with interactive High Charts, infographics and visualisation to improve communication and understanding of the data. All CSO statistical releases and publications are published in electronic format on www.cso.ie
along with easy links to explanatory information and to further tabular information on the Statbank database. This is an online portal that makes CSO data and metadata more accessible to the public. The CSO has made all its data available under an open data licence with an emphasis on creating data that is reusable and that can be re-disseminated.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation launched the Integrated Licensing Application Service, licences.ie
, in December 2015. The main objective of this project is to reduce the administrative burden on businesses who currently have to apply for a multiplicity of licences across a number of licensing authorities. This is done by providing a one-stop portal for application, payment and renewal. An outsourced provision of the service was followed on a Finance-Design-Build-Operate model under a Single Vendor Framework Agreement for a seven year period. Currently, there are a pilot number of licensing authorities using this service and this will grow to involve other licensing authorities as the system is rolled out.
The same Department has also developed a new online status enquiry facility for employment permits, which allows customers to enquire about the status of their application. An automatic response issues informing applicants of the current stage of processing and where possible, an indication of how much longer it will take for a decision to be made. This will be followed by the introduction of a new online application system for employment permits in Q3 2016.
The National Library of Ireland (NLI) is increasingly digitising its collections and making the digital resources available online. An example is the digitisation of the Catholic Parish Registers in 2015. Previously, researchers had to visit the NLI’s reading rooms in Dublin to use this genealogical resource. The NLI digitised the microfilms to produce 373,000 digital images and metadata and published them online free for use. The digitised Catholic Parish Registers was launched in July 2015 and has had over 6 million visits since then. In 2016, it was shortlisted in the Open Source category at the Ireland eGovernment awards and won the “Promoting Ireland Overseas” award.
By the end of 2015, over 93% (120,000) of all farmers had access to the Department of Agriculture and Food’s agfood.ie
portal. In addition, some 105,000 farmers have registered their mobile phone number with the Department for information services and / or registered permissions for transaction services via mobile phone. Furthermore, there has been significant support from industry to the Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system and all movements to livestock marts, export assembly points and slaughter plants are electronically recorded via web service links, with 6.9 million bovine movements recorded on AIM in 2015 alone.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland have developed an online mobile responsive website called MenuCal. This was developed with the input of chefs, caterers and small business owners. Businesses can register and use the online tool to calculate calories and to manage allergens.
The Building Control Management System (BCMS) was developed to provide a stronger system of design, construction and completion oversight by professionals in the building industry. There are now 30,000 users registered with BCMS, which also provides a single access portal for the submission of Commencement Notices and 7 Day Notices. The system allows real time statistical analysis for housing returns from a single dataset, with the ability to extract data quickly to provide information on national construction trends. Additionally, local authorities have benefitted from improved efficiencies by automating simple tasks and reducing administrative burdens. Phase 1 of the project consisted of the customer registration, e-forms and data management, monitoring and evaluation and the full automation of the completion certificate process. This Phase continued throughout 2015, with Phase 2 commencing in 2016.
Local authorities use www.fixyourstreet.ie
as a cost effective way to enable citizens to report issues such as graffiti, road path defects, street lighting, litter, leaks and drainage and tree maintenance. This online service is hosted by South Dublin County Council and, in 2015, almost 15,000 incidents were reported using the portal, with an average response time of 3.12 working days.
The use of digital technology in the education sector continues to be a key policy objective. Initiatives include the successful rollout of 100mbps connectivity to every second level school in Ireland, the rollout of pilot “switch-on” workshops for second level schools to optimise the use of digital in the classroom and the introduction of the School Digital Champion Programme, which is designed to elevate digital skills and to facilitate project-based learning, innovation and the development of 21st century skills.
Discovering if your qualification achieved outside Ireland has a comparable qualification on the Irish Framework of Qualifications has become easier with the introduction, by Quality and Qualifications Ireland, of a new online service QSearch. People with qualifications from outside Ireland can now use this new online service to check the recognition of their qualification and to download a statement of comparability for use with Education Institutions and employers. To date, almost 700 qualifications from a large range of different countries have been listed.
Data as an Enabler: Identity Management
Access to public services continues to be enabled through the increasing take-up and use of the Public Services Card (PSC). Since late 2011, the phased introduction of the PSC has been underway with over 1.9 million cards now issued, including over 630,000 Free Travel variants. The PSC provides for robust personal identification and enables individuals to access public services more efficiently, reduces the possibility of theft, forgery and fraud and preserves personal privacy to the maximum extent.
The PSC is based on SAFE 2 registration which provides a significantly enhanced ability to detect fraudulent activity and realise savings. The data collected and verified during the SAFE registration is updated onto the Single Customer View system operated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, providing a centralised identity verification service. Since March 2016, all first-time adult applicants for passports have to be SAFE 2 registered before getting a passport, meaning that they will need to have a Public Services Card.
The Department of Social Protection (DSP) launched a SAFE 2 compliant online Identity Access Management (IAM) system in February 2016 called mygovid.ie
to facilitate online access to high-value DSP web self-service offerings. The IAM is also available to other public bodies to use for their online provision of services.
A Health Identifiers Programme is being progressed by the Health Services Executive in line with the Health Identifiers Act, 2014. This will see the introduction of unique Individual Health Identifiers (IHI) for individuals, healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations. An IHI Proof of Concept system went live in September 2015 consisting of 4.2 million records. It was designed and deployed for integration with three pilot healthcare settings, in advance of the design and deployment of the full IHI Register which will be implemented in 2016. The design and implementation plan for the establishment and operation of the IHI Business Service was completed in Q4 2015.
Data as an Enabler: Geo-spatial Services
Geo-spatial services present enormous opportunities for planning, environmental management, land registration, public health issues, forestry and land registration. Ordnance Survey Ireland is currently working with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the development of a National Spatial Data Strategy. It is intended that the Strategy will deliver improved access to geo-spatial information for public services, business and citizens. The development of the Strategy is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, with implementation and rollout over the period 2016-2019.
METweb was developed by MET Éireann and allows individual weather forecast websites to provide targeted and tailored meteorological data to a range of public services, such as the Coast Guard. This allows up-to-the-minute information to be accessed by organisations via all modern media sources in any location, enabling better, faster decision making in critical operational areas.
The Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has developed Tellus to best utilise digital geosciences for public benefit. Tellus has created an environmental snapshot of Ireland by merging digital geosciences into better health and agriculture resources by using airborne mapping systems and other available data. The data collected by Tellus has direct relevance for agriculture and environmental management in Ireland, enabling better management of health risks. Most recently, Tellus surveying has been completed in the north midlands region (2014-2015) and the eastern midlands region (2015). Longer term, Tellus aims to complete surveying the entire island of Ireland on a phased basis, with 50% to be completed by end 2017.
The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht launched a Geographical Information System for Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas in December 2015. The system is aimed at supporting the implementation of the language planning process in Gaeltacht areas. Under the system, census data for 2006 and 2011 is presented regarding Irish language usage by Electoral Division in the Gaeltacht. Provisional information provided by the Department of Education and Skills regarding the location and population of primary and secondary schools in respect of the school year 2014/15 is also presented in map format.
During 2015, the Health and Safety Authority developed a mobile application and enhanced data platform utilising Global Positioning System coordinates and Geographical Information System postcodes for use by workplace health and safety inspectors. This has improved efficiency in data collection and inputting, delivering productivity gains and improved customer service.
Data as an Enabler: Data sharing
The General Scheme of a Bill on Data Sharing and Governance has been approved by Government and legal drafting of the Bill is expected to commence shortly. The Bill is part of a series of actions to improve data sharing in the Public Service. More effective data sharing between public bodies can yield very substantial benefits to all users of public services. Important issues also arise in terms of data protection and data quality and integrity, and the Bill aims to address these issues.
Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) has introduced a single online facility to handle payments, claims and entitlements through one integrated system. The project utilises technology and real-time processing to share crucial information between the Department of Social Protection and SUSI to reduce the need for customers to visit both offices as was previously required.
A joint initiative between the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and Revenue is eliminating delays in responding to queries relating to PRSI contributions. This collaborative project involved developing a process to make Revenue customer information on over 320,000 cases available directly to DSP. Benefits delivered include a reduction in phone contacts between the two organisations and a significant improvement in DSP customer service through timely access to PRSI information.
Digital Engagement: Use of Social Media
The growth of social media presents enormous opportunities for the Public Service to communicate differently with citizens and is widely used across public service bodies. An Garda Síochána have been using social media since 2011 and since then expanded its use of social media across Twitter and Facebook to inform and engage with the public on key matters of public safety. This includes national and regional Twitter and Facebook accounts, with its main channels including a dedicated traffic information Twitter account @gardatraffic, a twitter account to demonstrate community-related activity @gardainfo and a Facebook page to showcase the organisation’s range of activity. In 2015, it had the largest social media audience in the Public Service of over 300,000 with high levels of engagement.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Twitter network currently includes 7 HQ accounts, 65 mission accounts and 14 Ambassadorial accounts, with over 200,000 followers worldwide. In 2015, the main HQ account @dfatirl alone generated over 7 million impressions. The use of Twitter during consular crises has been particularly important and successful for quickly providing details of incidents to citizens both in Ireland and in the country affected by the crisis.
The Western Development Commission’s Yeats 2015 project highlights the benefits of an innovative use of social media. The project received an Ireland eGovernment Award as a good example of how to use digital platforms in engaging audiences, particularly the diaspora and international followers. Initial estimates suggested the project reached in the region of twenty million people at home and abroad.
The Local Authority websites attract over 45 million visits per annum and all local authorities now use social media to communicate. In addition, the Local Government portal, www.localgov.ie
, now provides a single point of contact for all local authorities.