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Ireland ‘leading’ Europe in developing digital green cert for travelling between countries, Minister says


Minister of State for eGovernment and public procurement Ossian Smyth

Minister of State for eGovernment and public procurement Ossian Smyth

Minister of State for eGovernment and public procurement Ossian Smyth

Ireland is “leading” Europe on developing a digital green certificate for travelling between countries, Minister of State for eGovernment and public procurement Ossian Smyth has claimed.

Smyth, who is set to take on additional responsibilities as Minister of State for Communications, told the Sunday Independent that the EU documents will work with domestic vaccination certificates, expected in coming months.

“We're working closely, and actually leading, with Europe on it,” he said. “We've demonstrated what our own system can do.”

He said that although a launch date for domestic vaccine certs isn’t yet available, the project is advanced.

“Our pilot system on digital certificates has been running with a sample group of healthcare workers over the last couple of months,” said Smyth. “Anyone who has been vaccinated will be able to get one of these certs, either digitally or on paper.”

Smyth, who had responsibility for the state’s MyGovid.ie portal, said that the certificate will be available through an online government platform.

“You’ll go online, click, and then they’ll physically send it to you or you can download it to your phone,” he said. “Then when you appear at an airport in Europe, you’ll be able to show it as proof of vaccination.”

The digital certificate system is being developed and managed separately to the vaccination rollout, he said.

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Tourism chiefs hope that an EU-wide certificate standard will boost visitor numbers here.

Last week, the European Parliament agreed with the European Commission on proposals to have a certificate system for citizens’ vaccination status operational by mid-summer.

“We will have the EU gateway up and running by June, while supporting the timely rollout of national systems,” tweeted Commission president Ursula von der Leyden.

“The Parliament adopting its position on a Digital Green Certificate is a key step towards free and safe travel this summer.”

It is likely to feature a ‘QR code’, which stores personal data and can be easily read by authorities.

Digital certificates are already in use in some countries around Europe, with Denmark’s Coronapas app giving citizens there access to bars and restaurants.

In Israel, digital certs allow people into a variety of public buildings and also to travel to countries such as Greece and Cyprus.

While declining to give a launch date, Smyth said that last year’s Covid tracker app is an example of what State-backed emergency tech projects can achieve under pressure.

The news comes as Smyth is set to take the bulk of Minister Eamon Ryan’s communications portfolio into a separate minister of state position. The shift was agreed at Cabinet last week.

In addition to his job for eGovernment and public procurement, Smyth will now occupy a new role as minister of state in the Department of Communications with responsibility for areas such as broadband, mobile networks and the National Cybersecurity Center.

“It’s quite a broad remit, but it means that we now have a lot of the digital aspects of government under one person,” he said.

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