Technology

Bringing citizen engagement to the next level

E-LB-HR-10 Government, like every other industry, is changing the way it communicates and engages with its customers. At eircom Business Solutions, we’re playing a key part in helping the Government embrace change and enhance the effectiveness of IT service delivery. Lorraine Butler explains its offering.

The landscape has changed. Social media and smartphones have allowed organisations to develop closer relationships with their customers. Smartphones are powerful computers packed full of feature-rich applications that Irish people are comfortable using for shopping, banking and interacting with organisations. But the mantle of power has shifted; people are now choosing how and when they interact.

Within this setting, a key challenge for government is how to communicate with citizens on their terms, aligning its methods with users’ needs. How does the average citizen want to engage with Departments and Agencies? How can the Government better reach the public, in ways that will be acceptable and affordable?

Reducing cost

For many government Agencies, disseminating and transferring information is a perennial challenge. Traditional methods are costly and can be inefficient (postage alone is a significant cost factor) but the lack of communication can also drive up costs. Within the health sector around a fifth of patients are failing to attend appointments. Estimates put the cost of missed appointments at some €210,000 per day for the health service.

A simplistic but effective project we’re trialling with the Health Service Executive (HSE) uses eircom’s Bulk Text solution to send appointment reminders to citizens, who can either confirm or cancel their appointment by return SMS. In addition to helping reduce missed-appointment costs, the solution also provides citizens with a convenient and simplified way to interact with the HSE, leading to a greater sense of engagement between the patient and the health services.

The benefits of such an approach are being recognised among other government agencies who are investigating the potential to roll out similar initiatives in the near future. The beauty of this solution is its simplicity and we can seamlessly replicate it for other initiatives.

E-LB-HR-4 Simplify

For government services, simplicity and clarity are key. A keynote speaker at the eGovernment Summit sponsored by eircom Business Solutions, Tom Loosemore of the UK Government Digital Service, spoke about how government services need to be “relentlessly focused on user needs”. And he’s right. On a fundamental level it’s about identifying what the user wants. It’s not about the bells and whistles, it’s about creating a service that answers the fundamental needs of citizens. Only when these are established and delivered upon, should we be trying to introduce sophistication.

The impressive e-referral initiative run by the National Cancer Control Programme is a great example of a people-focused, collaborative approach to a critical problem. Electronic referral for breast, prostate and lung cancer gives GPs direct access to cancer teams through the country, enabling earlier diagnosis. The system was developed to be intuitive and easy to use. On a basic level, it streamlines the referral process and reduces communications difficulties.

Get the basics right

It’s no surprise then that the e-referral initiative is a huge success. Currently 40 per cent of all breast, prostate and lung cancer referrals are being received electronically. This is a system that got the basics right; it identified the problem, did the hard work to make it as simple as possible to use, and is now making a major impact on the health of Irish citizens. e-referrals are among those projects outlined by Richard Corbridge, CIO for the Health Services Executive, as having the greatest potential benefit for the delivery of healthcare in Ireland, and we are delighted to support an initiative with such far-reaching impact.

Getting the basics right includes paying close attention to all the enabling technologies, including the underlying network on which Department and Agency initiatives rest. The eircom next-generation network is the sturdy foundation on which public sector services are and can be built. This infrastructure is enterprise-grade and delivers the reliability that public sector services require, as well as the all-important nationwide reach. Our work with Ordnance Survey Ireland, for instance, delivered improved connectivity to its widely dispersed network of GPS stations, which deliver correct and updated mapping information for use by a wide range of stakeholders.

Importantly, this underlying eircom Business Solutions network also provides the flexibility and scalability necessary for the Government to embrace innovation and transformative technologies. This is evident in initiatives such as the roll-out of Leap pay-as-you-go smartcards, which are reducing the need for cash in public transit.

Strategic partner

In this increasingly connected world, connectivity is king. And with solutions like eircom SIP Voice, we’re seeing a future where data, voice and mobile are carried seamlessly together over one connection – the data network. eircom SIP Voice opens up a wealth of opportunities for Irish public sector organisations by bringing their infrastructure into the IP world of converged communications, which looks a lot different from what businesses are used to today. In this new world one single communications partner, like eircom Business Solutions, can meet every requirement of an organisation: there’s no need for separate fixed and mobile providers, as all the services required are available over a single, flexible IP link.

Complementing our robust network and innovative solutions is the quality of support we provide. Our state-of-the-art Network Operations Centre is manned 24/7 by dedicated experts, using advanced monitoring tools and best practice processes. The single focus of our engineers and technicians is to ensure consistent, reliable performance in our customers’ networks.

This 24/7 network management and oversight is increasingly vital in the era of 24/7 online services, and it’s a key reason Dublin City Council chose to work with us when it needed a managed service provider that could improve the availability and security of its ICT infrastructure. Managed network services – as well as managed security services like content filtering and managed firewalls – are part of an ecosystem of services that are increasingly necessary in an age where continuous, high-performing and secure network-based services are needed right across the public sector.

We’re proud to play a part in this journey of transformation: like the Government, we’re focused on offering the best technology solutions and delivering them in a clear and simple manner.

Ultimately, our goal is to help the Government do better business. Whether it’s providing the enabling network for new services, introducing innovations like integrated Mobile & SIP Voice, or providing 24/7 network management, all of our efforts are aimed at ensuring we remain a key strategic partner to the Government. We look forward to embracing the exciting new chapter of this story.

Lorraine Butler is Director of Enterprise and Government in eircom Business Solutions. For more information, call our corporate and public sector team on 1800 255 255 or visit eircom.ie/business

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