Digital Transformation Service

Digital Transformation Service (DTS) is responsible for delivering the NICS Digital Transformation Programme and provides support and guidance to NICS Departments and other public sector organisations to ensure citizen facing services are transformed in a way which improves and simplifies government services.

Digital Transformation Programme

The Digital Transformation Team is working towards ‘Digital First’ which means new or redesigned services must be designed with online services as the primary way for citizens to interact with government.

The team can provide Agile coaching and mentoring to help your organisation adopt this new way of working and support you through your transformation projects.

Who can I contact?

Geraldine Eastwood: 

Central Editorial Team

nidirect is the official Government website for Northern Ireland citizens, providing a single point of access to public sector information and services. The website is divided into a number of themes and each theme is managed by a theme manager who sits within the Central Editorial Team. These theme managers work closely with various branches within NICS and other public bodies to collate key information based on the needs of the citizen, ensuring that information is accurate, relevant, easy to understand and consistent in terms of style.

nidirect also hosts a number of online services - these are secure and available 24/7. Services provided through nidirect include:

  • Booking a driving test
  • Criminal record checks
  • Paying your rates
  • Ordering birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates

In addition, the Central Editorial Team is involved with promoting government messages through social media and search engine advertising, analysing statistical data about the site in order to make improvements and providing best practice advice to other NICS website teams.

Who can I contact?

Philip Maguire: 

DTS works closely with ESS colleagues and the Central Editorial Team to ensure that the nidirect website is secure and maintained to a very high standard.

Digital Inclusion

The Digital Inclusion Team, via its Go ON NI initiative, aims to promote a more digitally inclusive society. Working in partnership with organisations, digitally excluded members of the population are helped to get online. This includes working with a network of community based Digital Champions across Northern Ireland and participating in events such as Silver Surfers’ Day.

What are the benefits?

At present 80% of Northern Ireland citizens have access to the internet and the target is a 1% increase each year for the next 2 years to ensure everyone can access any transactional services they are entitled to, more conveniently accessible and do the things they need to do. Benefits include efficiency savings that come with a greater use of online information and transactional services. Also there is scope for community benefits offered by the new technologies such as improved education, increasing digital skills, social inclusion, employment, health and wellbeing outcomes and expanded customer choice.

How much will it cost?

Centrally funded within DSS, the Go ON NI campaign focuses on encouraging as many people as possible to go online, addressing any barriers, promoting the benefits of accessing the internet and seeing the convenience of online public services. Training services are provided free of charge and all events are free to attend.

Show me examples

In a normal year, several major events bring the Digital Inclusion message directly out to the public. These include popular 'face to face' sessions such as Safer Internet Week (February); Spring Online Week - which also embraces Silver Surfers' Day (April); and Get Online Week (October). Other events include Young at Heart Retirement Living exhibitions and Search Your Family Tree at PRONI as well as public roadshows. IT taster sessions and training is provided throughout the year by Go ON NI partners. Libraries NI provide free GOT IT and Go ON sessions covering topics such as basic IT skills, shopping online and iPad training. Supporting Communities also provide bespoke training sessions to community groups and those most digitally excluded within sheltered housing.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, Go ON NI has had to redesign much of its programme with many of its usual sessions now being delivered to participants through online media. Additionally, two new programmes have also been introduced - a Digital Text Help scheme and the Connected Devices pilot - which continues Go ON NI's key objective of helping the digitally excluded get online.

Who can I contact?

Mark Bennett: 

Media Monitoring Unit

The Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) provides an invaluable service to all Government Departments, their Ministers and Arm's Length Bodies by continually monitoring media from all local, national and international media news outlets. MMU also provides an essential link to, and services for, the Executive Information Service.

Who can I contact?

Media Monitoring Unit: 

Citizen Space Online Consultation

Citizen Space is an easy to use online consultation platform. It allows for consultations and surveys to be designed, published, filled in and interpreted using a powerful and visually appealing browser-accessible web application that also contains a comprehensive set of tools for analysis. It is available for use to all departments and is free.

Citizen Space features granular administrative user access controls, editing, publishing, analysis and reporting tools. It is customisable and can include media-rich content and is scalable, both for use and response and enables you to consult fully online.

Citizen Space has at-a-glance stats dashboards – total number of responses, completion percentages, and instant bar charts for quantitative questions enabling meaningful data from all sorts of responses.

There is a qualitative tagging system, and quantitative summary reports and top-line statistics dashboards that anyone can use.

There are also in-depth results exports for further analysis if required and response coding – extract and tagging system for identifying recurring themes across free-text responses.

Citizen Space produces automatically-generated PDF reports – professional reports that summarise your responses in data tables and bar charts that are easy to download and share with colleagues.

There is a dedicated ‘analyst’ role – specialist user type for manually adding and analysing responses without giving access to consultation management and responses can be exported to .csv to be analysed using other software such as SPSS.

Who can I contact?

Carolyn McCall:

Digital Toolkit

Since 2014 Digital Transformation Service (DTS) within the Northern Ireland Department of Finance have been developing a set of core applications, referred to as the “Digital Toolkit” which has delivered a solution that addresses common sets of business problems that can be easily reused by departments, quickly, securely and with minimal cost.

The Toolkit is a catalyst for digital transformation right across the public sector in Northern Ireland with its ability to bring to life core citizen services through a cost effective model and has enabled the delivery of services that may not have been implemented, due to lack of funding or internal capability.

The development of the Toolkit is realising the ambition to create a platform for Government for the NICS and the wider public sector for the same cost as a single line of business application. Significantly, as the Toolkit continues to deliver additional new digital services greater cost benefits are realised and the platform itself is enhanced with more reusable components.

The Toolkit is integral in delivering the 2016- 2020 Draft Programme for Government (PfG) which sets out, in Outcome 11, the need for high quality public services and the “usage of online channels to access public services”.

The Department of Finance (DoF) has signed a five-year contract from March 2019 with Stiona Software for the support and further development of the Toolkit. The Digital Toolkit platform is hosted on the IT Assist subscribed Microsoft Azure public cloud.

The Toolkit delivers citizen/customer facing applications together with a ‘backend’ administration provision. There are no license fees or log-ins needed as business users have access through their Active Directory accounts. 

Since moving to Azure we now have the capability of integrating with a wide range of public sector Active Directory services.


In order to achieve this in a cost effective, scalable manner it is vital that DTS provide an architectural framework capable of supporting reusable application services with the associated operational processes.

The Toolkit provides 3 main services as follows:

  • Enterprise solutions such as secure messaging, identity management, notifications and automated SMS;
  • Bespoke solutions (Transactional forms);
  • Zero deployment solutions.

These are described in more detail below:

Enterprise solutions

These solutions are available to internal teams and third party suppliers in the development of IT solutions for NICS and wider public sector business areas across government. This will require liaison with our suppliers.

Bespoke solutions (Transactional forms)

The contract provides the opportunity to develop bespoke applications and services for business areas across government, however the decision to undertake these projects rests solely with the DTS Governance Board.

If approval is given, the project must be funded by the customer and the project will only begin once business case approval has been granted.

Zero deployment solutions

A number of the reusable application services have been developed and are referred to as zero deployment services, these are:

  • Tell US - A service that will provide the citizen with an online channel for feedback, general enquiries or complaining about specific services;
  • Book IT / Reserve IT - A service that will provide a reusable online channel for booking a room, appointment, venue or resource;
  • Rate IT - A tool that enables real time feedback on a user's experience of an online transaction. 

Once these core applications were developed it provided DTS administrators with the capability to offer the services at zero cost as there is no dependency for additional work required by our third party supplier. These are thus referred to as "zero deployment services."

Who can I contact?

The DTS Service Manager for the Digital Toolkit is Owen Murray who can be contacted via the details below:

Phone: 02890 254811 or internal extension 54811
Mobile: 07717 732239

NICS Identity Assurance

Digital Transformation is delivering a programme of projects which will increase the numbers of online transactions in line with Programme for Government targets.

Many of these online services require the citizen to register and provide some personal details, to enable transactions to take place. Traditionally, each new application has developed its own user account management functionality. This produces code replication, extends development time and is an unnecessary expense to a project.

In order to support the new 16x16 digital citizen services going live ahead of 31 March 2016, DTS designed and delivered an identity verification service which provides LOA1 and LOA2 assurance.

Digital Transformation has delivered an identity assurance service (NIDA), to be used by the various online services which require LOA1/2 accounts and until such time as Gov.UK Verify is modelled for NI citizens.

Digital Transformation has worked with major stakeholders on the 16x16 programme to design and deliver NIDA to meet their requirements.

NIDA is included as part of those online services being delivered by 31 March 2016.

NIDA is a strategic service which should be used by all other NI public-facing online applications, starting with new services and gradually replacing user account management within existing applications.

Who can I contact?

Geraldine Eastwood:

NICS SMS Text Messaging Service

The NICS uses text messaging to allow staff and citizens to request further information, engage with Government campaigns, receive reminders and updates by SMS. The NICS SMS text messaging service uses short code 67300. This service can automate a whole range of business processes which in turn results in efficiency savings. SMS can be used to promote:

  • Government Advertising Campaigns
  • Business Services
  • Business Continuity and Emergency Planning
  • Appointment Reminders

The Digital Inclusion Unit manages this service and takes up the cost of the technical licenses and software. It also provides training administrative duties.

Who can I contact?

Mark Bennett:

The Government Advertising Unit (GAU)

The Government Advertising Unit (GAU) is part of DoF ESS and is a shared service centre established as a result of a comprehensive review of government advertising.

Following the introduction in 2012 of a Protocol for Managing Campaign Advertising, the Executive agreed in 2013 that an Executive Campaign Advertising Programme (EAP) should be developed and approved by the Executive each year, to align to the Programme for Government.

GAU is responsible for co-ordinating the annual returns for the EAP. All proposed advertising campaigns initially require Ministerial approval at Departmental level before being considered for inclusion in the EAP. The Executive then reviews the EAP in the context of the PfG and agrees on the permitted spend on campaign advertising for each Department.

The GAU is a centre of specialised expertise which negotiates best advertising rates for Government and administers the EAP by co-ordinating, managing and evaluating advertising across Government. The aim is to ensure value for money, effectiveness and a more strategic use of advertising as part of government’s overall communications activities.

GAU has, through CPD, established a campaign advertising procurement framework for the appointment of advertising agencies to deliver Departmental requirements.  The protocol for the operation of the current framework can be found at NICS Government Advertising and related services framework Protocol 21-1

GAU reports to a Governance Board which has representation from all NICS Departments.

GAU also operates a classified placement service focusing on the delivery of Recruitment, Public Notice and Run of Paper advertising on behalf of all Departments, Agencies and NDPBs. The Placement Service is able to design advertisements for all local and national papers and arrange their booking and placement through the agency ASG & Partners. The Placement Service can provide advice and guidance on specific requests as required

GAU has established negotiated rates with local daily and weekly press offering best value for Government placements.

Who can I contact?

Back to top