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Ennis wins praise for local e-government
Friday, October 11 2002
by Andrew McLindon

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The Ennis Information Age project has been praised in an international report on local e-government.

The report, which was sponsored by SAP and carried out by two non-profit groups in the UK, examined initiatives in 14 countries, including Australia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK and the US. In Ireland, the report found that the Ennis Information Age venture had developed a unique ICT infrastructure and an on-line presence that encourages the local community to use the Internet dynamically.

It also concluded that the initiative has developed a vision for an information age community, promoted use and built capacity across a range of sectors, and has provided an environment that encourages the development of Internet and technology services.

Started in September 1997, the EUR19 million project, which was devised and backed by Eircom, provided subsidised PCs and high-speed Internet access to homes, businesses and schools in the Ennis area, established a fibre-optic network around the town, and offered technology training and a variety of on-line services.

Michael Byrne headed-up the project and is now chief executive of Ennis Information Age Services, a company established to advise other organisations on the lessons learned from the initiative. He said the project was a success because it focussed on the practical benefits technology could bring to the community.

"We understood the interaction between people and technology, and concentrated on promoting the benefits of the technologies, rather than the technology itself. This created a buzz about the project and lead to an appetite among people in the town to use the services on offer," he told ElectricNews.Net.

However, the project was not without glitches. The report noted that following its launch, people in Ennis began complaining about a lack of consultation. This concern, said the report, was addressed. A survey carried out last year found that Ennis had twice the national average for PC ownership at 75 percent and Internet connections were almost three times the norm for the rest of the country. But the same survey found that many of the town's inhabitants were unsure whether the project had met expectations and showed that on-line shopping was no higher in Ennis than elsewhere in Ireland.

In March 2002, Eircom withdrew from the project saying that it had achieved everything it had set out to achieve.

Overall, the report sponsored by SAP found that local authorities across the globe can learn "immensely" from other bodies that have faced similar e-government challenges.

It identified that when introducing new services, successful e-government projects examine and follow best practices from other local authorities, central governments, and independent training organisations to learn from their implementations.

In addition, it found that countries that use technology to collaborate across organisations improve information management and are able to transform the quality and efficiency of their on-line offerings by connecting civil servants with citizens, suppliers and other bodies via the Internet.

The report "Local E-Government Now: A Worldwide View" was put together by two UK-based non-profit organisations - the Improvement Development Agency (IDeA) and the Society of IT Management (Socitm), and was sponsored by software company SAP. Countries featured in the report included Australia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK and the US. The full report is available from the SAP Web site.



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