Change and Transformation in the Public Sector Finalist 2022: EY with Department of Health and Health Service Executive (Ireland)

Change and Transformation in the Public Sector

As part of its response to the pandemic, the European Union (EU) introduced the mandatory EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) to allow EU citizens and residents to safely travel between member states. A successful implementation of the DCC would enable the Republic of Ireland to reopen both its national borders and parts of the economy in 2021. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had placed significant strain on the health service resources and its ability to effectively deliver the DCC programme. Due to EY’s experience in developing a strategic data platform for the country’s Health Service Executive (HSE), and our capacity and ability to deliver major policy initiatives, we were brought in to deliver. Our role in making it happen would prove pivotal to the country’s ongoing response to Covid-19.

But it was a significant ask. Not only did we have to rapidly formulate and deliver the end-to-end technology and processes from a standing start within one month, but it also involved a major collaborative effort between EY and eight state agencies and departments – including the Department of Health. Delivery was further complicated by the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic, which meant that the new approach had to ensure that issuance of certificates could be sustained for the foreseeable future – given that processing would also be required for booster vaccinations. In addition, a cyber-attack had significantly impacted Ireland’s health service. Plus, the project scope broadened during the project; the Irish Government wanted to use the DCC to facilitate safer indoor dining and other indoor activities, and this led to soaring levels of interest and activity from the public.

So, we divided the programme into five workstream areas, which themselves were responsible for 10 integrated workstreams. And we formed a team to support operational go-live with team members located at ports of entry to support the immigration teams prior to commencement of the DCC. The overall result was that the digital certificate was launched a week before the deadline, and we immediately managed to generate and issue around 1.9 million DCCs. To date, around eight million DCCs have now been issued to Ireland’s citizens and residents. Crucially, our response not only enabled Ireland to reopen its national borders, but it allowed Ireland to reopen its national economy by delivering a solution to enable the struggling hospitality sector to recommence activities.

Furthermore, the DCC is regarded as a key milestone in EU cooperation, and has added greater urgency, and injected greater confidence, into the EU’s potential for digital co-operation on health issues. The DCC has become a high-profile digital health initiative that underpins future data strategy and the implementation of eHealth across the union. Crucially, the success has demonstrated that such a programme can be delivered based around key EU foundations such as GDPR and e-ID trust frameworks.

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