Ireland has made significant strides in terms of political leadership, administrative alignment and technological advancements.
Public Service Reform was a central element of the response to the crisis of recent years and remains an essential part of building for the future. Since the first Public Service Reform Plan was published in November 2011, a comprehensive programme of reform has been implemented. This has enabled the Public Service to continue to provide essential services, while demand for those services increased and while resources were very constrained.
A second Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016 was published on 14th January, 2014. This renewed wave of reforms was developed, building on the progress made to date and re-focussing the Government’s ambition for reform. This phase of reform reflected the need to maintain a focus on reducing costs and increasing efficiency. This Plan had an ambitious overarching objective of delivering better outcomes for all stakeholders and a strong emphasis on service improvement.
The Plan was delivered through a focus on service users, on efficiency and on openness, underpinned by a strong emphasis on leadership, capability and delivery.
The Civil Service Renewal Plan (CSRP) was launched by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Taoiseach in October 2014 and set out a fundamental new vision and direction for the Civil Service. The Renewal Plan focused on driving practical change through 25 specific actions in four key areas:
- Unified – Managing the Civil Service as a single unified organisation;
- Professional – Maximising the performance and potential of all civil service employees and organisations
- Responsive – Changing our culture, structure and processes so that we become more agile, flexible and responsive
- Open and Accountable – Continuously learning and improving by being open to external ideas, challenge and debate.
A number of the 25 actions relate to the opportunity to use digital and ICT to drive improved service and transformation, including:
- CSRP Action 5: Improve the delivery of shared whole-of-Government projects;
- CSRP Action 6: Expand the model of sharing services and expertise across organisations;
- CSRP Action 19: Expand the ICT capacity of Departments and increase efficiencies by creating common systems and infrastructure;
- CSRP Action 24: Improve how data is collected, managed and shared.
Another facet of the Government’s commitment to modernisation is its support for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative , which challenges governments to be more transparent, accountable and responsive to citizens. In December 2016, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform published a National Action Plan 2016-2018 following a consultation process.
The commitments set out in the National Action Plan 2016-2018 move forward on many of the key themes that civil society highlighted in the context of Ireland’s first National Action Plan 2014-2016. The themes addressed in the National Action Plan 2016-2018 are:
- Increased Citizen Engagement, to improve policies and services;
- Increased Transparency, to better understand government activities and decisions;
- Open Data, for transparency and innovation; and
- Anti-Corruption and Strengthened Governance and Accountability, to ensure integrity in public life.
Information and Communications Technology Contribution
The Public Service ICT Strategy represented the ICT response to the challenges of the Public Service Reform and Civil Service Renewal agendas. The Strategy, which was published in 2015, set out an ambitious ICT-driven agenda under five “pillars”, i.e. Build to Share; Digital First; Data as an Enabler; Improve Governance; and Increase Capability.
The ICT Strategy is aligned with the objectives of the Public Service Reform Plan of increasing efficiencies and the overarching objective of providing better outcomes for citizens, businesses and public servants though embracing the latest technological advances. When delivered, this Strategy will create a new model for ICT delivery across the Public Service; delivering more efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery through a more integrated, shared and digital environment.
- Build to Share
Creating ICT shared services to support integration across the wider Public Service to drive efficiency, standardisation, consolidation, reduction in duplication and control cost.
- Digital First
Digitisation of key transactional services and the increased use of ICT to deliver improved efficiency within Public Bodies and provide new digital services to citizens, businesses and public servants.
- Data as an Enabler
In line with statutory obligations and Data Protection guidelines, facilitate increased data sharing and innovative use of data across all Public Bodies to enable the delivery of integrated services, improve decision making and improve openness and transparency between Government and the public.
- Improve Governance
Ensure that the ICT strategy is aligned, directed and monitored across Public Bodies to support the specific goals and objectives at a whole-of-government level and with an emphasis on shared commitment.
- Increase Capability
Ensure the necessary ICT skills and resources are available to meet the current and future ICT needs of the Public Service.
The 18 Step Action Plan (see Annex A) not only delivers against the Public Service ICT Strategy and Civil Service Renewal Plan, but it was also developed very much in the context of the drive towards a European Digital Single Market and the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-20.
The Specific Focus of eGovernment and the European Dimension
eGovernment is a specific facet of a Government ICT Strategy. It is intended to specifically support administrative processes, improve the quality and inclusiveness of the services, and increase internal public service efficiency. It is generally recognised across the public service that digital public services reduce administrative burden on businesses and citizens by making their interactions with public administrations faster and efficient, more convenient and transparent, and less costly. Moreover, as an active participant in the delivery of the EU eGovernment Action Plan, Ireland fully subscribes to the view that by using digital technologies as an integrated part of their own modernisation strategies, governments can help unlock further economic and social benefits for society as a whole . Of course, it is not just about the presentation of services, we must and will also ensure that we incorporate best practice security into our designs, ensuring appropriate cyber and privacy safeguards underpin all of our digital services, including best practice implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
While there is recognition that Ireland has done well in the delivery of digital government services to date, we recognise that the key to an even better customer experience is to provide access to all services via a gateway or portal. This will not only make access easier but, through the use of voluntary registration and identification, will enable us to adopt the “tell us once, we will use many times” principle that underpins all excellent digital services. Indeed, not only is this the key to better government services, it is essential to facilitating the participation of our people and businesses in the emerging European Digital Single Market.
It was the desire to ensure a cross-European collaborative approach to the Digital Single Market that led to the European Commission launching a new eGovernment Action Plan for 2016-2020, which would specifically seek “to remove existing digital barriers to the Digital Single Market and to prevent further fragmentation arising in the context of the modernisation of public administrations”. Consequently, the EU eGovernment Action Plan sets out a number of principles that Member States have been asked to observe in order to deliver the significant benefits that eGovernment can bring to businesses, citizens and public administrations themselves.