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 Get Online Week.

What are the benefits?

At present over 85% of the Northern Ireland public have access to the internet and our aim is to increase this each year to ensure everyone can access online government services, make any transactional services they are entitled to more conveniently accessible and provide them with assistance to do the things they need to do online. Benefits of this include efficiency savings that come with a greater use of online information and transactional services, the scope for community benefits offered by the use of new technologies, improved education, digital skills increases, enhanced social inclusion, employment and health and wellbeing outcomes and expanded consumer 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 highlighting the convenience of online public services. Training services are provided free of charge and all events are free to attend.

Show me examples

Several major events take place during the year including Safer Internet Day ( February), Spring Online Week (April) and Get Online week (October). Other events include Young at Heart Retirement Living exhibitions and Search your family tree at PRONI. IT taster sessions and training is provided throughout the year by Go ON NI partners. LibrariesNI provide free GOT IT and Go On sessions covering topics such as basic IT skills, shopping online and Ipad training. Supporting Communities NI provide bespoke training sessions to community groups and those most digitally excluded within sheltered housing.

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: 

Digital Skills

The Digital Transformation Service, through the NICS Digital Skills Project aims to support every member of staff regardless of grade or job title to have basic digital skills in accordance with the essential digital skills framework.

These skills include but are not limited to:

  • Communicating online - email, MS Teams, Jabber (excluding DOI) and calendar appointments
  • Transacting online - payments, Account NI, HR Connect and online surveys
  • Handling information and content - search engines and reliability of information
  • Staying safe and legal - GDPR, https and the padlock symbol
  • Problem solving online - FAQs, video tutorials, spreadsheets and accessing the internet

Some roles and projects will require more advanced digital skills training in specific areas or digital leadership. The Digital Transformation Service works with departments, teams and individuals to help improve digital skills and to determine what skills level is required within a job role.

The Digital Transformation Service can offer the following services in relation to digital skills:

  • Basic digital skills assessments
  • Bespoke digital learning needs analysis
  • Bespoke departmental or team action plans to increase digital skills
  • Research on available Learning and Development (L&D) initiatives to meet business requirements
  • Digital L&D courses as required (cost is recovered from the customer)
  • Help in writing L&D business cases for digital skills training
  • Completion of digital maturity assessments

Who can I contact?

Carolyn McCall:

Citizen Space Online Consultation

Citizen Space, the NICS Survey and Consultation Tool, primarily used for surveys, consultations and data gathering has expanded its use to be an online tool which can also work as a proof of concept to allow departments to do their business online where there was previously a manual process in place. We believe that this will help departments and customers see the benefits of digital or online services before spending money on purchasing or building a bespoke technical solution.

Citizen Space is paid for and managed centrally in DoF for all departments under the Digital First Principle. This means that every time we are in contact with an external or internal customer we will try to provide a digital online channel for them to communicate with us at a time and place that suits their needs. It allows for consultations and surveys to be designed, published, completed 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 at no extra cost.

The platform has at-a-glance dashboards with total number of responses, completion percentages and instant bar charts for quantitative questions enabling meaningful data from all sorts of responses. There is also a tagging system for qualitative data, quantitative summary reports and top-line statistics dashboards that anyone can use. In-depth results exports are available for further analysis if required, as well as response coding - an extract and tagging system for identifying recurring themes across free-text responses. Citizen Space also produces automatically generated professional PDF reports that summarise responses in to data tables and bar charts that are easy to download and share with colleagues. In addition, there is a dedicated 'analyst' role, which is a specialist user type for manually adding and analysing responses without giving access to the overall consultation management and responses can be exported to .csv to be analysed using other software if required, such as SPSS.

Citizen Space has been rigorously tested against cyber security and GDPR principles and holds full security accreditation from the NICS Risk and Information Assurance Committee, deeming it safe for use across all departments and teams. Email and postal correspondence have the potential to be open to risk due to human error such as misplaced items or documents being moved or handled by numerous persons, whereas Citizen Space allows responses to be submitted directly from a user to our secure site which can only be accessed by authorised staff. All data on the system is encrypted to TLS v2.1 or above which makes it much more difficult to be intercepted by hackers and the site is penetration tested annually by National Cyber Security Centre approved testers.

The NICS online consultation policy approved by the Information Management Committee states that Citizen Space is the recommended tool to be used for consultations and surveys, along with outlining what steps to take should you wish to use a different tool or method.

Who can I contact?

Carolyn McCall:
Lewis Crothers:
Citizen Space Enquires Mailbox:

Digital Toolkit

The Digital Toolkit is a suite of mix and match, reusable and fully integrable tools available for NICS business areas to develop or enhance online transactional services.

These services include:

Tell US – an online channel for secure enquiries, feedback or complaints about specific government services, with correspondence tracking functionality.

Pay IT – provides an integration with Worldpay that greatly reduces development time and costs.

Book IT – provides an online channel for booking a government service, e.g. room, appointment and desk booking.  Currently deployed internally with plans to deliver an event booking service for citizens.

Rate It – enables real time feedback on a user’s experience of the online service – this can provide valuable insights on where service users feel service improvements could be made.


One of the benefits of using the tools is rapid deployment, for example, integrating ‘Pay It’ to an existing online business application could typically take 2-3 days development as opposed to traditional approaches taking approximately 6 weeks.

All applications have been developed by the Digital Transformation Service and as enterprise solutions they are free to use within the NICS and wider public sector.

Who can I contact?

Owen Murray:

Emma Penney:


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 across many business areas to allow staff and the public to request further information, engage with Government campaigns and receive reminders and updates by SMS. This service can automate a whole range of business processes which in turn result in efficiency savings. SMS can be used to promote:

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

Gov.UK Notify is used as the SMS text messaging provider and the costs are variable depending on volume of usage.

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?

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