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Students rebel against IT
Not so long ago students fought tooth and nail to get into IT courses. Now, they are shunning such studies, with massive implications for Ireland's reputation as a high-tech centre.
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Hanafin to head the Information Society
Friday, June 07 2002
by Matthew Clark

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Although Mary Hanafin, TD, is not Ireland's new E-Minister, the government has responded to industry pressure and put her in charge of Information Society plans.

On Thursday, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, TD, announced details of what shape his new cabinet will take, and many of the appointments are of particular interest to the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. Tanaiste Mary Harney, TD, will remain Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Charlie McCreevy, TD, will stay on as Minister for Finance.

But there are some changes in the cabinet, including the appointment of Seamus Brennan, TD, to the role of Minister for Public Enterprise. Additionally, Dermot Ahern, TD, will be the new Minister for Communications and Natural Resources.

In fact, Ahern's role will see him take on a position that now has authority over telecommunications, broadcasting and energy, giving him power to implement the changes set to take place in the Office of the Director Of Telecommunications Regulation as part of the recently passed Communications Bill.

But Mary Hanafin, the new Chief Whip, may have the most difficult task of all. It will be her responsibility to head up the "vast programme of change" that the previous government announced, designed to further enhance Ireland's position as a global ICT leader. The so-called Information Society plan set forth a programme that includes the roll-out of cheap broadband, comprehensive e-government and educational infrastructure so that Ireland's citizens can utilise these new resources.

Therefore, Hanafin will be charged with co-ordinating many of the activities of various government ministers to see that the plan takes effect. Such a role, often referred to as Ireland's E-Minister, was called for by multiple industry groups in the run-up to the election, including the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators (ALTO), the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the National Competitiveness Council.

"We would be a bit disappointed that the Information Society plan will not be implemented by a full minister," said Iarla Flynn, chairman of ALTO. "But on the other hand, it does show that Bertie is committed to seeing the plan rolled out. Generally we definitely think that the appointment of Hanafin, a very capable minister, is an improvement," Flynn told ElectricNews.Net.

"We do think the government has listened to industry and we are reasonably satisfied with the results," he added.

With regard to Dermot Ahern's appointment, Flynn said that ALTO was pleased with the move and the consolidation of communications responsibility into one area. However, ALTO also urged Ahern to quickly appoint the new commission for communication regulation, which he described as a very important step that "should be taken right away."

Meanwhile, Colm Butler, head of the Information Society Policy Division within the department of the Taoiseach, admitted that there was a need for a more focused political leader with regard to Information Society plans. "You could say that Mary Hanafin is filling that slot," Butler commented. He went on to speculate that Hanafin would probably want to take the mystery out of what has come to be known as the Information Society, so that all citizens can better understand what the technology will do for them and how it will work.

Hanafin is a Fianna Fail TD from Dun Laoghaire who in 2000 was promoted to the position of Minister of State at the Departments of Health and Children, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and Education and Science, with special responsibility for Children. In November 2000, the government expanded her role to oversee the co-ordination of all government policies for children and the implementation of the National Children's Strategy.

And although she has little political experience with regard to technology and the Information Society, it is thought that she was selected for her new post due the experience she gained co-ordinating activities in multiple government departments as Minister for Children.



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