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DEVELOPMENTS IN E-GOVERNMENT:

A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS BETWEEN IRELAND AND


THE NETHERLANDS

Jongmans, Maarten, Erasmus University, Statenweg 420, 3033 JA Rotterdam, The


Netherlands, 289471mj@student.eur.nl
Janssen, Bas, Erasmus University, Boezemweg 177c, 3031 BH Rotterdam, The
Netherlands, bas@student.eur.nl

Abstract
The name that is given to the use of electronic means to deliver better government is E-
Government. It is important to note that E-government can never be a goal in itself; it is a way to
improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the government and its communications. In this paper,
we compare the developments and integration of services regarding E-government in Ireland and
The Netherlands. We looked at problems that were encountered by both countries, and how they
were dealt with. Based on these findings, we formulated an advice on how to make further
improvements to E-Government facilities in the near future for both countries.
Our research showed us several interesting things. What we saw was that developments and
growth in E-Government Services and registered E-Government users in Ireland fall behind
compared to the same kind of developments and growth going on in The Netherlands. There is
not one cause that we can name for this outcome, but several reasons became clear during our
research. The low internet penetration in Ireland could be one cause, only 52% of the population
has an internet connection. Other reasons are that Irish people have always been suspicious
regarding their government and the lack of a killer application.

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1 INTRODUCTION
1.1 Introduction

Arrange your new passport; request a permit to build a barn; pay your taxes; vote for your
political party; all examples of services that can be provided by E-Government. In this paper we
give a description of E-Government and try to discover the differences in use and sophistication
of E-Government Service brokers.
Our attendance to the Study project of VRiSBI1 (the student association for the program
Economics & Informatics of the Erasmus University Rotterdam) is our motive to do research
about the subject E-Government. The subject of the study trip is “Innovation in the ICT”. But
what is innovation? Several definitions are possible; the one we regard as the one that covers our
feeling about innovation the most is from the British Department of Trade and Industry.
“Innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas.”
We chose this definition because we feel innovation is not only about implementing new
techniques but also about exploiting them successful. As we both had an interest in innovation in
the governmental and public healthcare sector, we did some research on what subjects would be
interesting to write a paper about. Ireland and the Netherlands popped out to be both active on the
territory of online service brokers (DigiD and Reach; these brokers will be explained later on).
These service brokers where implemented not so long ago and are still under continuous
development, which means they can be regarded as innovative, following our definition.
As Europe is becoming a unified economy, the differences between EU members will diminish
more and more, over the coming years. Although countries are ‘coming together’, there still there
are a lot of international differences in various subjects. In this paper we show these differences
in the E-Government area, between Ireland and the Netherlands.

1.2 Research Question

As we where visiting Dublin in Ireland with the study trip it was a logical step to make some
form of comparison in our research. That’s why we compared the developments and integration
of services in E-government in Ireland and The Netherlands. We looked at problems that were
encountered by both countries, and how they were dealt with.
Based on these finding we tried to formulate an advice on how to make further improvements to
E-Government facilities in the near future for both countries. This advice can be read in chapter
six of this paper.
This said, our main research question is:
What are the differences between The Netherlands and Ireland in E-Government measured by use
and sophistication, and how can these E-Government ‘missions’ be improved?
We narrowed our scope, because otherwise our research subject would be to big. This followed,
the sub-question are:

• How does the government succeed in using the potential of ICT to improve the
communication with citizens?

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http://www.vrisbi.nl

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• What kind of innovative E-Government projects are currently under development? Is this a
success-factor?
• Which problems did both governments encounter in their development of E-Government
services, and creating a broad interest within the population?

1.3 The Scope

E-Government is about a lot of different systems, applications and services. Also the
communication partners (citizens, business and government departments) can be different. We
had to create an understanding about what we wanted to explore in order to have a valid research.
That is why we have put the following constrictions on our research:
• We narrowed the subject of E-Government to the delivery of services to citizens and
government departments. We didn’t look at E-Government in the business area, because that
would be too broad.
• E-Government services are very broad, which is why it is hard to make direct comparisons
between them. To make a generalization, we only considered the Public Service Brokers:
Reach and DigiD.

1.4 Structure

This paper consists of six chapters. The first is the introduction, what you are currently reading.
In this chapter we want to introduce the subject and define the research question and the scope.
Chapter two is about the history of E-Government. A brief introduction on how E-Government
developed in the past 15 years to what it is right now: especially with the influence of European
initiatives. The methodology used is explained in chapter three. In chapter four we give an
introduction into E-Government in Ireland and the Netherlands. There is a specific section about
the e-government projects we researched (Reach and DigiD) in this chapter. Chapter five brings a
discussion about what the problems and successes are with the use and sophistication of E-
Government. Our advice to the on how to deal with the identified problems that are currently of
big influence on the E-Government programs is given in chapter six. Also some further research
topics, and the lessons learned are displayed here.

2 WHAT IS E-GOVERNMENT
To outline what in our opinion E-Government means we first want to show an official definition
E-government Refers to the federal government’s use of information technologies (such as Wide
Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) to exchange information and services with
citizens, businesses, and other arms of government.2
This definition of the website of the White House is a generally excepted, but in our opinion E-
Government is not only something the federal government should deal with, but is also of
concern to regional or local government agencies.
Our own definition is
E-Government refers to the government’s use of information technologies to exchange
information and services with citizens, businesses, and other arms of the government.
In our research we analyzed the communication of the government with the public in general and
between government departments, through the use of ICT.

2
http://www.whitehouse.gov

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2.1 The history of E-Government 3, 4

E-Government in The Netherlands and Ireland started in the early nineties of the last century with
the development of several government plans and initiatives. See the table below for an overview.
For a more detailed and complete overview please check the source in the footnotes of this
chapter.

Year Netherlands Ireland


1994 The National Action Launch Strategic
Programme on Electronic Management Initiative
Highways
1998 The Electronic Government
Action Programme
1999 The Dutch Digital Delta Action Plan on implementing
the Information Society in
Ireland
Information Society Fund
03-2000 Lisbon Strategy
05-2000 Better Government for
Citizens and Business (2002)
07-2000 Launch Reach
05-2001 Launch OASIS
11-2003 eGovernment - More than an
automation of Government
Services
2004 eCabinet
01-2005 DigiD Citizens
05-2005 Live Reachservices
12-2005 DigiD Companies

In 1994 the Dutch government published “The National Action Programme on Electronic
Highways”. This paper stated that the government wanted to seek out for and create new
opportunities for electronic initiatives in the Netherlands. The role of the government was mostly
limited to organising its position as a large scale user of information systems. Implementations of
online services where not promoted. In Ireland the “Strategic Management Initiative” was a
process to achieve excellence of service for the Government and for the public as customers and
clients at all levels. This shows that the Irish government was earlier thinking about developing
services online.
“The Electronic Government Action Program” which the Dutch government published in 1999
was all about publishing information and bringing services online. It was about providing
computers in all public libraries, establish websites with (current) government information (e.g.
overheid.nl) and create an (online) archive of various published government documents. The
program stated to make at least a quarter of public services available electronically by 2002.
With the Irish plans in 1999, both governments were on the road of becoming significant E-
Government players. The Irish government, at that time, already talked about an online service
broker and the successfully implemented periodic VAT return.

3
http://www.e-overheid.nl/sites/english/organisation/history/
4
http://www.epractice.eu/files/media/media_778.pdf

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2.2 Lisbon conference5

Then there is the Lisbon Strategy, Lisbon Agenda or Lisbon Process. In March 2000 the
European Council developed and presented an action plan stating that Europe should be the most
competitive economy in the world by 2010. To achieve this, the EU stimulates the use of ICT
across Europe. The eEurope6 action plan created goals for member states to bring services online.
European services like funding and research were also included in the action plan. Because this
program set the goals untill the year 2002 there was a need for a follow-up plan(s).
The ‘Better Government for Citizens and Business (2002)’ in May 2000 and the ‘eGovernment -
More than an automation of Government Services’ in late 2003 became breakthrough plans. It
changed the way Governments looked at E-Government. E-Government became a way to make
the government more effective and efficient (and not a goal on itself).
The Lisbon conference with the eEurope plan developed into the EU i2010 project. The
effectiveness and efficiency topics of the 2000 and 2003 plans, where perfectly compatible with
these ideas.

2.2.1 EU i20107

With the EU i2010 action plan the European Commission seeks to accelerate the delivery of
benefits for all citizens and businesses, making sure that there will be no new barriers due to
fragmentation or interoperability. Five major goals where set:
• No Citizens left behind.
Make sure that every citizen can access the benefits from innovative services of the
government.
• Making efficiency and effectiveness a reality.
To contribute to higher user satisfaction, transparency and accountability.
• Implementing high impact key services.
To make 100% of public procurement available electronically, with 50% actual usage and to
create agreement on services to be implemented.
• Putting key enablers in place.
To enable citizens and businesses to benefit from secure and interoperable authenticated
access to public services.
• Strengthening participation and democratic decision-making.
For example video conferencing.

3 METHODOLOGY
3.1 Research proposal

The initial research set-up of our research was published the 4th of October 2007. In this research
set-up we suggested a research question and sub-questions. Due to time management we
recognized that some of our proposals on how to research where to ambitious.
That’s why we changed the measurement tool of E-Government we wanted to use. We suggested
in our proposal that measurement should be done with factors like integration, use, safety and
trust. We changed this by using a benchmark model of Cap Gemini (see chapter 5).

5
http://europa.eu/scadplus/glossary/lisbon_strategy_en.htm
6
http://www.e-overheid.nl/data/files/internationaal/eeurope2002-actionplan.pdf
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http://www.e-overheid.nl/data/files/internationaal/eeurope2006_actionplan_en.pdf

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3.2 Visits in Dublin

In Dublin on Wednesday the 10th of October we visited the Reach organization. This is the
organization which provides reach services. Mr. Seamus O'Farrell gave a presentation about what
Reach is and what problems occurred during the setup and rollout of Reach Services. He also
showed us the success stories of E-Government in Ireland which was very helpful for this
research.
On Friday the 12th of October we visited two departments. The first one, the Department of
Enterprise, Trade and Employment is responsible for the Reach project. This presentation gave
some insights in the Innovative E-Government / Innovative policy and strategy in general.
The last visit that had a sustainable contribution to the research was in the afternoon of the 12th of
October; we visited the Department of Taoiseach, also called the Department of General Affairs.
The presentation that was given was about E-Government and the E-Cabinet. Both very helpful to
get an insight in the development of E-Government in Ireland and the policies behind it.

4 THE CURRENT SITUATION (REACH / DIGID)


In The Netherlands and Ireland there are a lot different E-Government projects. Each project has
its own unique features and possibilities. Despite the differences between the two countries on the
E-Government subject, there is at least one similarity: the Public Service Broker (PSB). The PSB
in the Netherlands is DigiD8 and in Ireland it’s Reach 9.
These two Public Service Brokers are providing a messaging and authentication service to
Government Departments. Each department can then arrange its own implementation.
The difference is that in the Netherlands there are a lot more services provided through DigiD at a
lot of different levels. This is something that will be explained later on

4.1 E-Government Ireland and The Netherlands

As stated in the second chapter of this paper, E-Government started very early in both countries.
The implementation of E-Government projects on the other hand was taken on much earlier in
Ireland, compared to the Netherlands. Figure 1 shows Ireland being stable in their E-Government
development over the past two years, where the Netherlands are still growing.

8
http://www.digid.nl
9
http://www.reach.ie

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Figure 1: Online sophistication E-Government services in Europe. 10
E-Government implementations in the Netherlands and Ireland were almost at the same level in
the year 2006, whereas in 2004 Ireland was ahead of the Netherlands. E-Government is of course
not only about implementation; bringing services online. It is also about creating more efficiency
and effectiveness through the use of ICT. To achieve that, implementing services is not enough:
the use of the service is at least as important. To show what the use and sophistication is in
European Countries, including Ireland and the Netherlands see figure 211.

Figure 2: Comparison between supply and use of online public services for citizens.

4.2 E-Government projects

E-Government in Ireland and the Netherlands is not only dictated by Reach and DigiD. In both
countries there are a lot of other projects. To give an idea there is a brief overview below.

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Online Availability of Public Services: How Is Europe Progressing? Cap Gemini and i2010
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Online Availability of Public Services: How Is Europe Progressing? Cap Gemini and i2010

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• Citizensinformation.ie / Overheid.nl; two sites that provide information to the citizen on all
kinds of government subjects.
• Revenue Online Service / Belastingdienst.nl; websites where companies can file their tax
reports.
• eCabinet; this Irish project is one of the first of its kind in the world. The goal is to replace all
paper(s) in the cabinet room. Every minister has a touch screen in front of him/her with the
possibility to read paper(s) of his/her own department or other departments. This way
communication is much faster and more environmentally friendly.
• Publicjobs.ie / Werk.nl; two websites that try to provide jobs by bringing businesses and
people together. A difference is that in the Netherlands the website www.werk.nl is connected
through DigiD and the Irish www.publicjobs.ie isn’t connected through Reach.

4.3 Benefits by E-Government

Examples 12 of benefits by E-Government by making the government more efficient and effective:
• Revenue Online Service create annual savings of €10.5 million in 2005;
• Land Registry can process twice as many transactions with the same amount of staff;
• Agriculture Animal Health Computer System resulted in staff savings of 115 people.

4.4 Reach and DigiD

Reach and DigiD are the Online Service Brokers of Ireland and The Netherlands. They provide
the authentication service and messaging system for the government. The Department of
Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Ireland is responsible for Reach. Although the Department
of General Affairs initiated E-Government policies, the Entemp Department had the most
qualified in-house IT staff at the start of the Reach project, and had already developed a strong
customer focus. In the Netherlands the organization GBO.overheid is responsible for various E-
Government services and projects like PKI overheid and Waarschuwingsdienst.nl. GBO has also
the responsibility over DigiD.
As the Reach project started in 1999 (see E-Government history in chapter 2) the development of
the DigiD platform has been catching up. Not only the amount of services provided for the
citizen, but also the amount of users DigiD has is much bigger compared to Reach Services.
The user amounts of the different systems are:
• Reach Services has about 300.000 users at the current time (around 20% of the population).
• DigiD has about 6.000.000 registrations, which is about one third of the Dutch population
(around 35% of the population).
DigiD and Reach have also another aspect that’s different among them. DigiD has a lot of
connected local governments13, where reach has none (although it is possible). More than 250
Dutch cities local governing boards already made their website services available through DigiD.
Not only pure government authorities (like city governing boards and national government) are
connected through DigiD, but also government organizations like the “Informatie Beheer Groep”,
the “Kadaster” and “Rijkswaterstaat”. This creates a much bigger potential user base.

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Presentation provided by the department of the Taoiseach by Martin Troy
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http://www.digid.nl/burger/over-digid/wie-doen-mee/

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5 DISCUSSION
5.1 Identifying problem areas

Based on the findings in Chapter 4, this chapter tries to identify the problems responsible for the
difference in success. It is not easy to explain why Reach hasn’t been able to deploy their services
as successful as DIGiD. Although Reach Services has more services deployed, and most of its E-
Government services were available quite some time before DIGiD had a significant advantage,
the number of registered users at Reach is lacking behind compared to DIGiD, in terms of
percentages of the population.
To identify the causes for this problem, a model is used which represents the critical success
factors that are at hand when deploying E-Government services. This Holistic Measurement
Model 14 (figure 3) is a benchmarking model which is based on indicators necessary to
successfully put E-Government services into operation. This model will be used to identify the
problem areas that are applicable to Reach Services.

Figure 3: Holistic Measurement Model by Capgemini.

5.2 The causes for the identified problem

The problem at Reach Services (the number of registered users which is lacking behind) can have
several different reasons, and the problem can basically have its foundation in every cell of the

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Online Availability of Public Services: How Is Europe Progressing? Cap Gemini and i2010

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model. Based on the interviews conducted at Reach Services, and the Ministry of Taoiseach, the
following causes for the stagnating user registrations can be concluded
Technical cause:
• Despite the economic growth, and developments in the area of ICT in Ireland, the Internet
penetration is still very low. Only about 52% of the population has an internet connection15, of
which 26% have a broadband connection. To make a comparison; in the Netherlands, 86% of
the population has an internet connection, of which 85% is a broadband connection. The
reason why the penetration of the internet in Ireland is lacking behind on other countries has
not been identified by this research, because this falls outside our scope. The low internet
penetration can be seen as a problem in the area of E-readiness of the population, and
specifically in the cell of Technology and Connectivity.
Cultural cause:
• The Irish people have always been suspicious regarding their government. This is probably
caused by the political disturbances in the last and for last century. The Irish population is
therefore resilient in their communication with the government and not anxious to use new
government services.
Probable Organizational Cause:
• Reach Services has had up to now no so-called ‘Killer-application’, which has been able to
convince the Irish citizens to use the E-Government services on a large basis. It must be noted
here, that there is a car-tax service, enrolled by Revenue (Irelands tax collecting agency),
which has been very successful. Despite its success, it is a stand-alone service which has no
connection with Reach Services. In The Netherlands, businesses are for example obliged to do
all their tax reports online. This is not the same in Ireland. Although we didn’t consider the
business area of E-Government, we think this has been a great enforcer of the number of
users. Dutch students are also obliged to use DigiD to login to their accounts at IB-Groep: the
organization which regulates government funding for studies (student grants).
The problem areas can be identified, if the Holistic Measurement model is applied to Reach
Services. To start, it is easy to see that the category ‘Structural Landscape’ is in a problematic
state for Reach Services. The cultural cause (politics, society, culture, history) is definitely to be
found in this area. The cultural cause also has its foundations in the category Use, which tries to
measure the Take-up and Adoption of E-Government Services. Because of the same reasons as
mentioned before, this category is problematic, but also because of the lack of Reach Services as
a coordinating organization (too many services are deployed at other instances).
The technical cause lies in the E-readiness category, which measures the foundations that must be
laid out to sustain successful E-Government. In this E-readiness category, the problematic factor
for Reach Services is Technology & Connectivity. The low internet penetration lies in this
category, and is mutual responsible for the stagnating integration of E-Government services into
the society.
Figure 4 shows the internet penetration compared to the broadband penetration in Ireland. As is
obvious from the figure, the households that have an internet connection is very low compared to
Te Netherlands.

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Online Availability of Public Services: How Is Europe Progressing? Cap Gemini and i2010

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Figure 4: Internet access and broadband internet in the European Union

6 CONCLUSION
6.1 Sustainable E-Government development for the future

Based on the findings, an advice can be given to the Irish government to overcome the
encountered problems, and increase the usage of their E-Government services in the near future.
It must be said at this point, that current actions performed by the Irish government to counter the
mentioned problems have not been taken into account, due to the scope and available time
restrictions.
The cultural problem will probably not easily go away. The population will most likely remain
hesitant regarding new services laid out by their government. To overcome this problem in the
area of E-Government, there must be a basis of trust. This basis can be achieved if all the E-
Government services are even more integrated and guided by one Service Broker: Reach. Then, a
‘Killer service’ (like the car-tax service) will have a big pull-effect on Irish citizens. If this car-tax
service is governed by Reach (or at least some sort of strategic cooperation is created) it will be
easier to convince potential users to register. Besides that, a new service to remove a lot of
bureaucracy can be launched: a (obliged?) passport or permits service, for example, because
every citizen has an advantage with it. It means reduced standing in line for something you don’t
want to stand in line for.
Besides that, the Irish government should try to counter the internet penetration problem. A
starting point for success with E-Government services is based on reaching the audience, and
with only half of the population connected to the internet in Ireland this is not very likely to
happen. The government should actively encourage and support citizens taking up (broadband)
internet connections. They could for example create a coalition of interested parties. There are
plenty of modern and interested providers in Ireland. An increase in internet penetration will
benefit the whole Irish population. “The common key success factor in leapfrogging countries can

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be attributed to the centralized political sponsorship of E-Government programs that have been
implemented with great success the last two years.”16

6.2 Recommendation for further research

A couple of interesting questions can be formed after having performed this (small) research
study. The open questions that remain can be opted for future research:
• Why is the internet penetration in Ireland lagging behind, compared to the Netherlands? We
identified this as one of the major causes responsible for Reach Services not acquiring the
number of users they wanted too, but didn’t go into the basis of this problem.
• Besides the internet penetration, there is also a low percentage of broadband internet users
among the households that have an internet connection. We believe that a broadband
connection is an enabler of successful E-Government, but we based this on our own opinions.
Further research could examine this statement and see if a broadband connection is required to
make use of the E-Government services offered by Reach.

6.3 Lessons learned

We encountered several problems during our research. These have been valuable lessons for the
future. The biggest problems we encountered while performing our research were:

• We had too little time. As we had already suspected in advance, it would be hard to do our
research in the designated time. Because of that, we had to work hard, and change two other
things:
• The scope was still too broad; we had to narrow it. Because of that, not all E-Government
services were regarded, but only the Public Service Brokers.
• We changed the research methods; we had neither the time nor the power to do all our
research by ourselves. We used several sources to gain insight in current E-Government
practices (e.g. developments / current usage / sophistication / etc.)

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References

[1] P. Wauters and G. Colclough, "Online Availability of Public Services: How Is Europe
Progressing?”, published by Capgemini, i2010, june 2006,
http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/docs/benchmarking/
online_availability_2006.pdf

[2] Commission of the European communities, "E-Europe 2002", published by the Council
of the EU, Brussels, 2000, http://www.e-
overheid.nl/data/files/internationaal/eeurope2002-actionplan.pdf

[3] www.whitehouse.gov (definition of E-Government)


[4] http://www.e-overheid.nl/sites/english/organisation/history/
[5] Commission of the European communities, "The i2010 eGovernment Action Plan",
published by the Council of the EU, Brussels, 2006, http://www.e-
overheid.nl/data/files/internationaal/eeurope2006_actionplan_en.pdf
[6] Europa Glossary, “Lisbon Strategy”,
http://europa.eu/scadplus/glossary/lisbon_strategy_en.htm

[7] Paul Timmers, "EU eGovernment Policy - Vision, Actions, Challenges", published by
ITAPA Congress, 20004, http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/
public/documents/NISPAcee/UNPAN019730.pdf
[8] http://www.digid.nl; the resource site used for information about DIGiD.

[9] http://www.reachservices.ie / http://www.reach.ie; the resource sites used for information


about Reach Services.
[10] Revenue: http://www.revenue.ie
[11] "eGovernment in Ireland", published by IDABC eGovernment Observatory, june 2005,
http://www.epractice.eu/files/media/media_778.pdf

[12] Presentation by Seamus O’Farrell on Reach Services (presentation can be requested at


the VRiSBI organisation – http://www.vrisbi.nl )

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INNOVATION & ICT

VRiSBI International Research Project Ireland 2007

Study Association VRiSBI


Kamer H11-02
Postbus 1738
3000 DR ROTTERDAM
Email: info@vrisbi.nl
Internet: www.vrisbi.nl
Tel: +31-10-408 8846

Emiel Caron
Assistant Professor
Room H10-19
P.O.Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Email: caron@few.eur.nl
Tel. +31-10-4081342
Fax. +31-10-408 9162

VRiSBI is the study association for the study Economics & Informatics at the Erasmus University
Rotterdam. We have over 350 members and there are around 100 students currently in their final
year of the bachelor or master program.
One of our most important tasks is to connect students of Economics & Informatics with
companies to give them an inside look how it is in the field. We try to do this by regularly
organizing different kinds of activities in association with interested companies.
The development and the pleasure of learning for the student is important to us. We do this by
organizing all kinds of activities like company visits, study trips, symposia, etc. etc.
This report in front of you is part of the VRiSBI International Research Project Ireland 2007. The
CD-Rom contains all the reports and it also contains the presentations from the symposium
‘Innovation & ICT’.
ISBN of the complete report: 978-90-812660-1-7

14
VRiSBI International Research
Project

“Innovation and ICT”


Comparing Ireland with The
Netherlands

Please visit http://studiereis2007.vrisbi.nl for the


complete paper of this presentation.
Other papers and presentations are also available.