Westmeath wins e-Government award for online services

Westmeath County Council has been announced as a winner in the annual e-Government Awards, held in Dublin recently. The council was one of five short-listed candidates in the Local Government category and took the award for their suite of online services which includes a newly-redeveloped website, rural transport initiative and online services for elected members.

Redeveloped website

The council’s website - www.westmeathcoco.ie - was redeveloped with the objective of providing a site that is customer focused and aligned to service delivery. The new site has a fresh new look with simplified navigation, improved easy to understand content and meets accessibility standards. The new site was launched in October 2010.

Some of the additional features on the new site include online registration for the Register of Electors, additional options for paying online, online Contact-Us forms that feed directly to the council’s internal customer contact management/tracking system, and a new spatial/mapping service which have been provided for displaying spatial information about council services.

Rural Transport Initiative online service

Recognising the need for a collaborative approach to rural transport services within Westmeath, members of the council’s Community and Enterprise Department met with representatives from the HSE, Irish Wheelchair Association, FAS, National Learning Network, and the Westmeath Rural Transport Group to explore the possibilities around sharing routes, collaborating on transportation services, identifying gaps, and overlaps in rural transportation coverage.

An online spatial application was developed and launched in October 2010. This application - http://www.westmeathcoco.ie/WestmeathRoutes_VB/ - shows the transportation routes of the various rural transportation providers as well as pickup points and links to the providers’ websites. As well as providing this information directly to the public, this application helps the groups to see the routes and agree on a common approach to transportation services.

Councillor web services

The council has developed the councillor web services application which is an online portal connecting elected members with all of the ICT services which they require on a daily basis. Elected members can log in securely to the website portal and view all documentation in relation to upcoming and previous council and committee meetings.

The online portal also provides an online calendar of meetings and events for members, access to planning and electoral register applications, group SMS messaging, and submission of notices of motion and questions for upcoming meetings. This suite of members’ services has eliminated the need to send paper correspondence to members and has considerably improved administrative efficiency in the management of meetings.

All three online services were designed and developed in-house by the ICT department’s web services and design team, following a process of consultation with stakeholders.

Responding to the news of the award, county manager Daniel McLoughlin expressed his delight at receiving “independent verification that the work of the council in the area of ICT customer services is among the best in the country”. He confirmed that further initiatives of this nature will be advanced during the course of this year including additional e-payment options, access to environmental information, and further enhancement of access to performance data.

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