The folks in Ireland have issued an almost candid update on their progress on e-government. The principle issue is a delay in the award of the contract for the “Public Service Broker”. This is pretty much a Government Gateway clone, although the ideas emerged independently. I met some of the folks on the project team about two years ago (just after we launched) and, when we compared notes, things looked pretty similar. The only difference is that the Irish have included a “vault” – a store for common data that could be exchanged among department. I’d like to do that in the UK, but can’t get anyone to take the punt as all are fearful of data protection issues. Another day I have to write my views on the data protection dragon (see John Lettice’s piece on Congestion Charging to see how quickly concerns can spread on this topic, and he’s only talking about congestion charging).
Ireland came out near the top in a recent survey on e-government transactions. I’m a bit confused by that though as I’ve looked at a lot of what is on offer and also talked to the people bidding for the contract who, naturally, come to show us what they’re doing in Ireland as a way to try and get business in the UK. Not much of what is promised is on offer yet – much depends on the PSB. But, the vision is right, the ideas are right … all they need to do is sort the delays and motor ahead. Anyway, as their Minister, Mary Hanafin, says …
“Today’s publication sends out a clear signal to all of us responsible for its implementation, to focus on minimising delays, and ensure the continued delivery of our action plan. We are committed to this.”
That’s another one of those Mooresian points about public sector projects always being late, isn’t it!