Open source lets Irish Taxes…

Open source lets Irish Taxes scale IT solutions

Published on: 11/03/2016
Apache Solr unleashes enterprise search at Revenue Commissioners

The freedoms that come with open source software licences have set Ireland’s tax authorities free to scale-up its enterprise search. On top of that, using Apache Solr has greatly improved finding information on the Intranet and across the many network drives at the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. This would be unaffordable with proprietary software licences, says Cleo O’Beirne, Content Team Manager at the Revenue Commissioners.

On Wednesday last week, she was one of the speakers at a conference on open source, open standards and open data. The conference in Dublin was organised by the Office of Public Works and the Local Government Management Agency.

The IT strategy at the Revenue Commissioners is to use open source wherever possible. The organisation is turning to open source enterprise search solutions, combining enterprise-grade solutions such as the Apache Solr search engine, the Apache ManifoldCF search crawling engine, and an Apache Hadoop distributed computer cluster.

The same software solutions now provide the organisation’s website search service. “To manage the growth of information here, this also would be unaffordable with proprietary licences”, Assistant Principal O’Beirne says.

Information management

The software freedoms are enabling the tax authorities to plan, build and test improvements. Users will always crave easier search engines and better results, says O’Beirne. Currently, staff members need to enter separate queries for the Intranet and the network drives, but O'Beirne says that her team is already working on a unified search solution.

Thanks to open source, search has become much better. Apache Solr is so good at finding information, O’Beirne says, that the organisation needs to come up with plans on how to deal with sensitive documents, and how to make sure information is kept up-to-date. Without a proper information government and management strategy, it is ‘garbage in, garbage out’”, she sums up.

A million here, a billion there

Open source search solutions are also used for the Revenue Commissioners log analysis. The amount of information generated by computer logs is growing rapidly. Every day another 25 to 30 million records are added, with logs from some 750 systems. Analysing the billions of events is providing the tax authorities with new ways to audit and improve its services, O’Beirne explains.

Analysing phone records, shows for example which are the most expensive calls, which is the longest single call and what are the costs incurred by a member of staff. Eventually, this log-analysis might also show administrative errors, or attempts to access sensitive data by unauthorised staff members.

Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners assess and collect taxes and duties. The organisation collects 93% of the Irish government’s revenue. Ireland’s 2016 government budget was EUR 770 billion, with revenue expected to fall short by EUR 2.7 billion. The organisation employs over 5,600 people.


More information:

OPW/LGMA Open for Business conference