E-Government

Oral Answers to Questions — Social development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 8th April 2002.

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Photo of Alasdair McDonnell Alasdair McDonnell Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:30 pm, 8th April 2002

2. asked the Minister for Social Development to outline (a) any elements of e-government which have been introduced within his Department in each of the past 3 years; and (b) any plans for e-government development in the next three years.

(AQO 1093/01)

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

My Department is committed to the targets for e-government agreed by the Government in July 2001, and it is already well placed to meet them. We use electronic technologies widely, and we are seeking further ways to modernise services and interfaces with our customers and partners.

Examples of developing work are the extensive use of e-mail for communications in the Department and with other Departments; the provision of advice and information to the public; the modernisation of disability benefits in conjunction with a private- sector partner; a retirement pension-led teleclaims service; and a disability contact centre for claims to disability benefits. My Department is also co-operating fully in efforts being co-ordinated by the Central Information and Technology Unit for Northern Ireland (CITU [NI]) to develop a strategic approach to the delivery of e-government services.

Finally, in relation to social security and child support, the Department for Social Development is moving towards electronic service delivery in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions in Great Britain, on which it relies for most of its operational systems.

Photo of Alasdair McDonnell Alasdair McDonnell Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his answer and for the gallant effort that he made to be here today, which we appreciate.

The ‘Corporate Strategic Framework for Delivery of Government Service Electronically in Northern Ireland’ specifies that Departments will consult with their customers to ensure that their needs are addressed. What processes does his Department use to identify customer needs for electronic services?

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

I thank the Member for his initial comments.

Customer service is a central focus of my Department. The Social Security Agency alone provides a direct service for some 600,000 customers. That agency conducts customer satisfaction surveys, which show a high degree of satisfaction. Our customers tell us that we are meeting their needs to a large extent. I am not complacent, and I understand the motivation behind the Member’s question. As I said, my Department is committed to meeting fully the agreed targets for the electronic delivery of its services, and I am confident that, by constantly developing and improving our technology, we can continue to meet the demands of our customers.

Photo of Ken Robinson Ken Robinson UUP

I thank the Minister for his very full reply so far. When does he expect to publish the cost of electronic service delivery and compare it to the current cost of paper transaction for the same services?

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

As the Member will know, the Government have agreed that in Northern Ireland 25% of all key services should be capable of being delivered electronically by the end of 2002, rising to 100% by the end of 2005. An immense amount of work must be done to meet those targets, but I am confident that we will meet them. I will research the comparison that the Member has asked for and give him that information. I will also ensure that a copy of the answer is placed in the Assembly Library.