Ireland not so “networked ready”

The World Economic Forum has released its latest Global Information Technology Report, highlighting the “Networked Readiness Index”. I do not know what that means, but it probably has something to do with the Smart Economy, the government plan that is mentioned in the introductory chapter of the report. Ireland ranks 24th, towards the bottom of the rich countries and at par with the best of the middle-income countries.

The index consists of 3 subindices, each consisting of three subsubindices, derived from a total of 68 indicators.

As everything depends on the arbitrary weighting of the indicators, it is more instructive to look at the bottom level indicators.

Ireland is 24th out of 133 assessed countries. What is dragging us down? I’ll list the indicators on which Ireland is 48th or lower:

  • Burden of government regulation: 74th
  • Intensity of local competition: 49th
  • Time to enforce a contract: 60th
  • Residential telephone connection charge: 92nd
  • Residential telephone subscription: 118th
  • Fixed telephone line tariffs: 52nd
  • Business telephone connection charge: 76th
  • Business telephone subscription: 92nd
  • Availability of new telephone lines: 53rd
  • Government prioritization of ICT: 63rd
  • Government procurement of ICT: 59th
  • Importance of ICT to government vision: 56th
  • Government success in ICT promotion: 64th

There is no need to comment on the above.

Ireland scores well on a number of things (12th or higher):

  • Judicial independence: 9th
  • Number of procedures to enforce a contract: 1st
  • Level of competition: 1st
  • Quality of education: 8th
  • ICT imports: 1st
  • ICT exports: 10th

17 thoughts on “Ireland not so “networked ready””

  1. No surprise. We got an additional phone line installed in my office last week, one that we had ordered in October … 2008.

    Our office is in Citywest, which allegedly includes the National Digital Park. The mobile coverage is a bit patchy as well come to think of it.

    As a ‘smart economy’ goes I think we’re in need of some remedial education.

  2. The lack of ICT expertise and vision in the Irish Government and Civil Service is shocking. This is in part due to the privatisation of those bodies that used to provide the expertise albeit at huge cost, viz eircom.

    The Department of the Taoiseach used to perform the role of co-ordinating e-government strategy very well but then they seemed to totally lose interest over the last number of years. No doubt personnel were rotated.

    With that said, it is encouraging that Minister Eamonn Ryan will be appointing a Chief Information Officer for the State. A lot will depend on the ability of that person, the resources made available to them, the scope of their bailiwick and their ability to influence other departments. I understand the DoF may also be appointing another official in the next week or two to deal with ICT.

    These measure still fall short of measures taken by countries which have appointed a Minister for ICT alone. I think Japan have done that and the Conservatives in the UK are considering it. Whilst I am confident Eamonn Ryan could perform that role, I expect he was not willing to give Energy away! Perhaps the next Government will go the whole hog and make one Minister/Department responsible for ICT and for co-ordinating other departments.

  3. “…it is encouraging that Minister Eamonn Ryan will be appointing a Chief Information Officer for the State.”

    In Oct 2009, the Taoiseach announced that the Government would appoint a CIO who would report to him and have responsibility for all IT projects in the public sector.

    In Oct 2005, Cowen had introduced some changes to procurement rules in respect of big value projects following controversy about cost over-runs on road and IT projects.

    In Oct 2005, I wrote: “The penny has at last dropped for the computer illiterate Government Ministers, senior bureaucrats and political advisers who have been paid well, to ask the questions that a business person would be expected to, when signing off on major expenditures….Instead of putting party flunkeys on the public payroll, has there been anyone in government with the savvy to propose a CIO – Chief Information Officer – with key experience in world class IT organisations and successful project implementation experience? A similar function with responsibility for major infrastructure projects would surely have also been merited.”

    So in 2010, it is “encouraging” indeed that some some progress is threatened in this glacial-speed “smart” economy.

    Barry McSweeney, the former Chief Scientific Adviser, writes in the WEF report: “The progression from great Irish colleges of education in Europe after the Dark Ages to leadership in e-learning is not accidental – – it is driven by the needs and talents of an ambitious people.”

    Let us dream on…..to hell!

    Despite the crash and the appalling consequences for so many, it will take more than a series of articles in the Irish Times to change this fairytale culture.

  4. Eamonn Ryan has a genuine interest in his area. The An Bord Snip Nua report higlighting waste in public ICT together witht the dubious focus on “Innovation” are providing the impetus that PPARS, PULSE, E-voting et al should already have provided. Certainly, a good bawling out is deserved. However, I think Eamon Ryan has the drive to make real changes in this area. Maybe it comes from having run his own business.

  5. A possibly not unrelated milestone is that in Q4 services exports exceeded merchandise exports for the first time.

    Indications from the merchandise exports release published by the CSO on Friday indicate that there is likely to be little growth in this segment in 2010, with any growth in Irish exports coming from services. 2010 will probably mark the first full calendar year when services exports exceed that of merchandise goods.

    In many respects, the economic policies that have been so successful in attracting foreign multinationals to produce merchandise goods in Ireland will continue to play an important role in services. For example, the low corporation tax rate, membership of the EU single market and investment in education will remain key elements of Government policy. However whatever it is that the ‘network ready’ index captures, it possibly highlights some areas that we need to pay strong attention to given the weight of services in our export mix.

  6. @ Richard

    Surely a large component of this problem is our lack of expertise and practise in long term infrastructure project, but it IT, water or sewerage related, etc etc.
    If we have a continous investment programme it would also reduce marginal costs associated with the starting and ending of projects.
    Al

  7. There are various interesting articles around in whatever research database you have available to you if you search on ‘broadband benefits South Korea’ – even if you only have access to Google scholar you should find some good reading in this area. Amazing people those South Koreans.

  8. @ zhou_enlai

    Eamonn Ryan has a genuine interest in his area

    Maybe in Ireland almost 3 year in office, is too short a time to have any impact.

    Should the CIO be a political appointee with a seat at cabinet like the AG?

    As Ronnie O’Toole signalls, there have been policy successes in the past and what is required is a response to a changing world. However, unless a CIO has a credible pedigree, it would be a waste of time.

    I read the transcript of the Oireachtas Joint Enterprise’s hearing with IDA Ireland’s Barry O’Leary on the new IDA Ireland strategy.

    It simply reflects a common ignorance in this area.

  9. Ireland scores badly because telecoms is expensive and low quality. See also Gerard’s first comment. How would a CIO affect that? Don’t we already have a Commission for Communication Regulation for that?

    The World Economic Forum also criticises the use of ICT by the government. Most of these decisions are and should be made at a decentralised level. What would a CIO at government level contribute? I can see merit in a CIO per department and agency, but not for the whole government.

    And then there are problems with vision. Visions of Ireland are set by committee, again something that a CIO would find hard to change.

  10. @Zhou_EnLai

    “The lack of ICT expertise and vision in the Irish Government and Civil Service is shocking. […] The Department of the Taoiseach used to perform the role of co-ordinating e-government strategy very well but then they seemed to totally lose interest over the last number of years.”

    Yes. e-Government responsibility now in Dept of Finance. 10 yrs ago Ireland well well up the rankings here and a sound start – but other than the Revenue which ranks as world class, interest and action on implementation waned considerably in most other departments – and also, with some exceptions, at local level (South Dub OK). Some moves to put it back on agendas recently …….. worth noting that the three Irish entries shortlisted for the 2009 eGov awards of 56 were

    losing your job dot ie
    south dublin digital books service
    livestock marts

    » Importance of ICT to government vision: 56th

    is a devastating indictment of the 2002-2007 PD/FF administration ; might have something to do with the ideology of privatising public goods provision ……….

  11. @All

    Yes – A Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO) under/over/on/at the Cabinet Table is a great idea.

    Other than Michael Collins, have we ever had a Minister who could function in this role?

  12. I dunno about all this grand ICT strategy stuff. A lot of good work has been done in various corners of the public service. Consider, for instance, the Ordnance Survey maps online http://www.osi.ie, various local authority library websites, the national archives, the online Dail debates and statutes, the national library photographic collection …. That list reflects my own interests in historical material; others might be able to cite other applications. This might be the decentralisation to which Richard refers.

    bjg

  13. @ Richard Tol

    What would a CIO at government level contribute? I can see merit in a CIO per department and agency, but not for the whole government.

    Have a look at the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General for a
    flavour of the impact of amateurs with responsibility for IT and eGovernment projects.

    €420m was spent on eGovernment projects in the 2000-2005 period.

    Work on a public services portal cost about €40m and the system was junked.

    Add in other IT projects and it becomes very significant.

    During the boom, Irish public sector IT contracts were a huge bonanza for external consultants who were able to typically charge for a junior analyst, one year after graduation, €1,200 per day. On 40 chargeable weeks, the gross margin was €200,000. Meanwhile, the core or main engine of a software project may have been bought externally by the consultants, at a fraction of the total project cost.

    In any large organisation or company, it’s a recipe for disaster to allow different areas build their own IT systems.

    Just wonder why Freedom of Information requests for cross-Departmental costs take months to respond to and then it is usually piecemeal because one or more departments is having difficulty pulling together the required detail.

    The role of the Commission for Communication Regulation is not relevant.

  14. @Brian J Goggin

    Yes – there of pockets of excellent endeavour – but isolated pockets, and you mention a few of them. The Big Picture is not as advance as it could have been if the early momentum 10yrs ago had been maintained …. see

    Michael Hennigan ……..

    …. some made big dosh from ill-thought out projects alrite ……… early_days thinking was sound enough circa 2000 ….. then it nose_dived ………. & I do not recollect much mention in recent shuffle …

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