[Irl-dean] Fwd: Knowledge Society News

brendan spillane brendan at ilikecake.net
Mon Oct 23 09:57:13 IST 2006

Hi All

For anyone who is still not on the ISPU mailing list their latest
newsletter is available below.

It is also available in HTML (the archaic type) at



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: ISPU, Department of the Taoiseach <ispu at enn.ie>
Date: 20-Oct-2006 11:48
Subject: Knowledge Society News
To: brendan at ilikecake.net

To view Knowledge Society News from the ISPU in HTML:

Knowledge Society News

20 October 2006

Issue 2



A new phase of a government project aimed at helping citizens to make
the most of technology has been launched. The Access, Skills and
Content (ASC) initiative, launched by Minister for the Information
Society Tom Kitt in August, will provide EUR1.5 million this year to
projects focusing ondigital content and skills development,
specifically with regard to older people and people with disabilities.
The ASC is part of the third phase of the Government's eInclusion Fund;
phase one and two were rolled out in 2004 and 2005.

The stated aim of the ASC is to target those who are at greatest risk
of being left behind in the move to a more knowledge-based society,
"by exploiting the potential of technology to foster communities of
common interest through online services and networks."

"There are a number of aspects to addressing the problem of the
digital divide, and it is not just about getting access to technology,"
said Minister Kitt, speaking at the launch of the ASC during a visit
to the Mobhaile Hosting Centre in the Local Government Computer
Services Board. "It is more important for people to have fundamental
skills to use technologies wherever they are, and the benefits of
using technology can be seen in circumstances where it makes a
difference to them and their lives."

Kitt said that with the right training, more users could benefit from
new technologies. "Properly and imaginatively used, new technologies
can have a very beneficial impact on what people are doing, whether
that is in education, at work, or just coping with the challenges
and demands of everyday life."


Minister for the Information Society Tom Kitt is hosting an
eInclusion seminar in Dublin entitled "Different Perspectives on
Tackling the Digital Divide". Presentations will cover selected
projects from the 2005 eInclusion Fund, Mobhaile and the ASC
Initiative, among other topics.

The event takes place on 23 October in Farmleigh, Phoenix Park,


Comhairle, the national agency responsible for supporting the
provision of information and advice on social services, has unveiled
a comprehensive new citizens information website,
www.citizensinformation.ie. The website provides information on a wide
range of subjects in 14 separate categories, including employment rights,
buying a home, moving abroad and education.

The new site boasts a range of features, such as a 'find an address'
tool that helps users contact over 8,000 service providers and government
bodies nationwide, and a 'My Information' facility. This feature allows
users to create their own, personalised accounts, where they can store
links to information and documents of relevance. Such documents are
automatically updated to afford immediate access to new information
and initiatives as they come online. The most up-to-date news will be
featured on the site's home page, where important events and key
changes to the website will also be highlighted.

In a drive for greater accessibility and to accommodate the diverse
backgrounds of the rapidly growing immigrant community, relevant
content is published in Polish, French and Romanian, and the entire
site is available in English and in Irish. The site has also been
designed to be accessible to users with disabilities.

"Over the past five years, not only has Ireland's social fabric changed
dramatically, but so too has the use of technology in our everyday
lives. Both of these factors have resulted in an increase in service
requests and changes in the way we seek information.
Citizensinformation.ie was developed as a direct result of these
factors," said Leonie Lunny, CEO, Comhairle.

The new site replaces the www.oasis.gov.ie website and Comhairle's
online Citizens Information Database.


The Passport Office has begun issuing electronic passports, or
ePassports, for Irish travellers. The new documents feature a secure,
contactless electronic chip that can store encrypted digital
information. The chip holds personal details pertaining to the holder,
along with a digital image of the person's face.

The chip technology allows the information stored on an ePassport to
be read by special chip readers at a close range. The chip also
incorporates digital signature technology to verify the authenticity
of the data stored on the chip. All passports issued from now on will
be ePassports; existing passports remain valid, but an ePassport will
be issued at the time of renewal.

The project, which was undertaken with BearingPoint, was delivered in
line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards
in just seven months, and underwent rigorous trial and testing
procedures. "We have brought this project to completion within time
and well within budget," said Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot

Earlier this year, the Government estimated the cost of the scheme for
2006 at some EUR8.8 million, but "it has been completed for
EUR6.1 million," said Ahern. "The savings made on this project will be
invested productively elsewhere. We achieved this by clearly defining
our system requirements, implementing very strict budgetary control
and constantly reviewing, throughout the life of the project, the
necessity for each item of expenditure."


A series of workshops has been taking place in Dublin in the run-up to
a national ePayments conference in December, with the aim of fostering
discussion on how to encourage Irish citizens and businesses to move
away from a dependency on cash and toward the use of electronic

There is currently an over-reliance on cheques and cash in Ireland,
according to Barry O'Mahony, policy and projects officer at the Irish
Payment Services Organisation (IPSO). "We are one of only three
countries in the Eurozone that uses cheques to a significant extent,"
he says. "Ireland is often referred to as the 'Silicon Valley of
Europe', yet that is not the case when it comes to payments."

O'Mahony says there has, over the past two years, been an informal
process of consultation between IPSO, the Government and regulators on
the issue of ePayments. He says the move toward ePayments is not
designed to create a cash-free society but rather to reduce the level
of cash used and to create a safer and more convenient means of making
payments. O'Mahony says the reduction in the levels of cash in
circulation would help businesses to reduce expenses. "There are obvious
expenses such as paying for cash in transit and bank charges that
businesses think about when handling cash. But in addition, they often
don't consider the extra staffing costs that can be incurred, nor the
space utilisation costs associated with securely storing cash."

ePayments will also play a key role when the Single Euro Payments Area
(SEPA) is introduced in 2008. SEPA is a programme that allows
electronic payments to be made across 29 European countries, including
Ireland. "It removes all borders," says O'Mahony, explaining that delays
incurred by the processing of cheques would be removed by the new system.


The Local Government Computer Services Board's Mobhaile project is
planning to expand its service. The project helps schools, small
businesses and community, voluntary and sports groups to create an
online presence, with the aid of their local city or county council.

Essentially, Mobhaile (www.mobhaile.ie) is a citizen portal that
displays a local map every time it is accessed. The map plots everything
in the locality in question, from banks and post offices to local shops
and traffic movement. If you click on an item - for example, a bus
stop or cinema - relevant information such as timetables and prices
will be displayed.

"The ideal is to create a source of local information about every town:
everything from the butcher, the baker and candlestick maker to local
government information such as services and planning applications," says
LGCSB assistant director Tim Willoughby.

Currently there are close to 500 constituent Mobhaile web pages offering
localised information within seven local authority areas, and Willoughby
is talking to more authorities about expanding the service in 2007.
"What we're trying to do is increase the amount of sources for Irish-made
content to get onto the internet. Because it's local, it's a 'bottom-up'
approach rather than a 'top-down' policy."

The Mobhaile project can also be used by small businesses who want to
test their business plan online, according to Willoughby. "They can do
it using Mobhaile until they find out what the best approach is, before
engaging in the expense of approaching large telcos to host their site
when appropriate," he explains. The LGCSB is also working with Chambers
Ireland to establish a facility whereby local chambers of commerce can
set up a business blog through Mobhaile.

ICT skills training for community-based organisations looking to get
online is also provided as part of the Mobhaile project.


New technology is revolutionising the work of the Environmental
Protection Agency and allowing the public to access information about
factors affecting their environment at the click of a mouse.

Real-time monitoring of air quality across Ireland is now carried out
at local air-monitoring stations around the country and transmitted back
to EPA headquarters in Wexford. The information is then plotted online
so people logging on to www.epa.ie can check the current air quality in
their area by selecting the relevant Access Map.

New technology has also made life easier for EPA employees. Biologists
assessing river water quality can now record information on the spot
during riverside inspections, using a robust waterproof laptop. This
data is relayed directly back to the office and promptly made available
to those who need it. In time, this information will be made available
immediately on the EPA website so members of the public can get
up-to-the-minute updates on water quality in their area.

One of the key roles of the EPA is regulating activities that have
significant polluting potential. Licensing and controlling of the
activities of large-scale waste and industrial facilities and factories
ensures that they do not endanger human health or harm the environment.
The licensing process can now be viewed online via the EPA website.
Members of the public can see the original application, any objections
lodged against it, official responses and whether or not the licence was

"The EPA was keen to use technology to ensure that our licensing process
was as open and transparent as possible," says Carl Phelan, programme
manager for Information Management and Technology at the EPA. "The
licensing decision-making process is now wholly online. This has greatly
improved ease of access to information for interested parties.
Previously, people had to come to our offices in Wexford to view public
files. Now people have access to the information they require. They can
assimilate it from the comfort of their own home and then come back to
us with any questions."


A new methodology designed to help governments better quantify the
value of their IT investments beyond purely financial measures has just
been unveiled by the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the
University at Albany in New York. Working with software firm SAP, CTG
devised a methodology termed Public ROI, which measures gains in
governmental integrity and transparency for a wide range of stakeholders,
including constituents and politicians. The Public ROI of projects can
range from "a few minutes saved in a routine transaction to improving
the trust and legitimacy of an entire government," the CTG said.

A new EU-funded project called PICTURE will oversee the development of
a method for calculating the potential benefit of public spending on IT.
PICTURE (Process Identification and Clustering for Transparency in
Reorganising Public Administration) is a EUR3 million research project
involving a consortium that includes 12 partners from six European
countries. The project aims to create tools that will enable public
administrations at all levels to predict the impact of IT investment
schemes on governments, citizens and businesses. The project is due to
run until January 2009 and has been co-financed by the European
Commission's Sixth Framework Programme.

Consulting firm Accenture has established an Institute for Public Service
Value, with offices in Washington, D.C., and London. The company's Public
Service Value (PSV) model aims to help government agencies measure their
return on investment; the model adapts the core concepts of shareholder
value from the business world to define and measure governments' return
for money spent. Using the PSV model, performance can be tracked against
two factors: outcomes (the purpose and goals of the organisation in
delivering services to citizens) and cost-effectiveness (minimising cost
without compromising the quality of services). Accenture claims that the
model can help government agencies, non-profit organisations and other
bodies to identify intended social outcomes and determine which actions
and strategies are the most meaningful for improving public value.


India -- The central government of India has revealed ambitious plans to
launch a web portal that will enable citizens to access thousands of
government services. Built in conjunction with tech giant IBM, the site
will be accessible on PCs and mobile devices and through special
eGovernment kiosks set up in rural parts of the country. A wide range of
services will be offered through the portal, from business permits and
government tender notices to tax advice and housing subsidies.

Denmark -- The Danish government has begun issuing electronic passports
to its citizens. The new, secure ePassports, provided by digital security
firm Gemalto, feature a polycarbonate data page containing a microchip.
This chip stores personal information that identifies the passport holder,
including a digital photograph of the person in question. The Danish
authorities plan to incorporate the chips into all new passports, and they
expect to issue around 250,000 ePassports by the end
of 2006.

Scotland -- The city council of Aberdeen is launching a network of
touchscreen internet kiosks, known as iKiosks, throughout the city. The
free-to-use kiosks will offer users e-mail, video-mail and internet
access, along with a host of information on local government services.
Users will also be able to make free internet calls using VoIP (voice
over internet protocol) software. The new facilities are part of the
city council's Access Aberdeen Programme, which aims to provide citizens,
workers and visitors with information about council services.

Published by ISPU, Department of the Taoiseach (mailto:ispu at enn.ie)
Copyright (c) 2006 Information Society Policy Unit, Department of the
Taoiseach. All rights reserved.

The Information Society Policy Unit does not represent or make any
warranty in respect of the accuracy, reliability or continuous supply of
any of the information or content contained in, distributed through, or
linked, downloaded or accessed from any of the services contained on
this newsletter.
Copyright (C) 2006 All rights reserved. Produced by ElectricNews.Net Ltd.

>From ISPU, Department of the Taoiseach, c/o 2 Herbert Lane, Dublin,
County Dublin 2 Republic of Ireland

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