Challenges and opportunities for Government's new Chief Information Officer

Friday 10 May 2013 11.53
Bill McCluggage will lead the implementation of the eGovernment and cloud computing strategies
Bill McCluggage will lead the implementation of the eGovernment and cloud computing strategies

Will Goodbody, Science and Technology Correspondent, looks at the appointment of the Government’s new Chief Information Officer.

It’s taken a while, a very long while to be frank. But last week’s appointment of Bill McCluggage as the Government’s new Chief Information Officer (CIO) is nonetheless welcome.

A recognition, albeit a late one, that large organisations including Government, need an expert leading public sector IT strategy and delivery.

Mr McCluggage describes himself as a self-confessed builder and innovator - two skills he is very likely to need, as he attempts to lead the transformation of Irish eGovernment and bring about change in the public sector here.

He arrives at a time of many challenges, and indeed opportunities.

With public service reform and austerity very much to the fore, he should be pushing an open door at leadership level in relation to implementing innovation that will streamline public services and save money.

He will lead the implementation of the eGovernment and cloud computing strategies, two exciting areas full of potential, if there is sufficient by-in and funding to see them through to fruition.

He will also have the opportunity to lead by example in the area of Big Data, by convincing Government to open up its considerable data bank to academic and commercial scrutiny.

But the challenges are many. IT policy and strategy is one thing, but real change requires infrastructure.

And Mr McCluggage is likely to find it difficult to secure sufficient capital funding from his bosses at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to do everything he wants, when he wants.

He also arrives at a time when many public servants feel threatened by the reform agenda, and may greet with suspicion any attempt to drive further change through ICT.

He also joins a public service with wildly varying degrees of success and a patchy record in bringing about enhancements in public service delivery through technology.

There is little doubt, however, that Mr McCluggage is equipped with the necessary experience for the job.

A former director of eGovernment and CIO for Northern Ireland, he led the kind of change agenda there that is arguably needed here.

While as deputy government CIO in the Cabinet Office in London, he led the team that produced Britain’s national ICT strategy.

He also has private sector experience, most recently as an adviser at EMC and military experience, where he served in the RAF.

He did admit in an interview from earlier this year, that after six years in the Northern Irish civil service his spirit became stifled by the risk aversion and lack of funding, two obstacles he is likely to face here also.

However, on his Twitter page he says: "I just love the why, what and how of new technology and specifically ICT, and how it can make our lives better."

So let’s hope his arrival can make our lives better.