Howlin studying Korea’s moves in e-government

A UN report showed that South Korea has topped the charts in terms of e-government, for the third time in a row

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: keen to learn about South Korea’s expertise in  e-government. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: keen to learn about South Korea’s expertise in e-government. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 01:04

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin overlapped with his cabinet colleague Richard Bruton in South Korea. Mr Howlin was attending a United Nations conference on public service reform and said the Koreans were very interested in what Ireland has achieved in the past three years in this area.

“Through necessity, as I told them. They are interested in the economic aspects of reform and how we can drive a change agenda and at the same time downsize,” Howlin said before the Irish-Korean Business Networking dinner in the Grand Hyatt in Seoul.

What Mr Howlin was most keen to learn more about was Korea’s expertise in the area of e-government. A UN report showed that Korea has topped the charts in terms of e-government, for the third time in a row.

“We are up 12 places in 22nd place, and to be in the top 25 is regarded as being very good. We have the structures needed in Ireland, but it is the mechanics they do very well here, the platforms and the IT, and I wanted to see if that can be replicated in Ireland because it just makes doing business easier,” said Mr Howlin.

Online services

Ireland has 436 services online and a lot of department work is being done, such as in the agriculture sector, where farmers can make claims and do their returns online without having to get bogged down in paperwork.

Services such as passport issuance, paying property tax, driving licence renewal and taxing cars, all can be done efficiently online now.

“Property tax online is working, with 73 per cent paying online. We need to make it easier for people to do their business with the state without having to replicate information all the time, to deal with public service through one access channel,” he said.

One-minute passport

However, Korea is way ahead in some areas. “I just saw the way they produce passports here,” said Mr Howlin.

“You can input your data online because you have your own unique identifier and they generate a passport in one minute. The passport office at home has become much more efficient but I think we can learn something from this.

“We have to balance data protection and efficiency, as people are sensitive to this,” he said.

If you are ill, the information would be available on such things as allergies, blood type etc.

And the technology could be developed in Ireland. “We have a huge IT platform in Ireland and there is no reason at all that we can’t develop bespoke answers to Irish problems ourselves,” he said.

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