Digital inclusion focus could add €28bn to Irish economy, Cisco claims

18 Jul 2022

From left: Cisco MD Scotland and Ireland Shane Heraty, Western Development Commission CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin, and Cisco SVP and chief government strategy officer Michael Timmeny. Image: Cisco

Cisco is planning new initiatives to accelerate digital opportunities in Ireland, such as free online courses and new partnerships.

A more inclusive, digital society could add around €28bn to the Irish economy by 2030, according to new research commissioned by Cisco.

Conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, it claims that Ireland could benefit greatly by connecting everyone and equipping them with digital skills, while digitising key industries and public services.

In response to the research, Cisco is expanding its Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) programme to help Ireland tap into these digital opportunities.

“We’re one of the most connected nations, yet the opportunity that presents isn’t felt by everyone,” said Cisco MD of Ireland and Scotland Shane Heraty. “The last few years have brought the impact of digital exclusion into focus. Whether socially, economically or in our ability to access digitally skilled talent as employers.”

A Google and Amárach report in April claimed that a national investment in digital skills could add €9.5bn to Ireland’s economy in the next three years.

Improved rural connectivity

Cisco said expanding the CDA programme will involve investment in partnerships, projects and initiatives focused on creating opportunities across Ireland.

This includes a partnership with the Western Development Commission (WDC) to help digitise the west of Ireland through a number of projects.

For example, the partnership aims to bring tech-enabled healthcare to remote locations such as Clare Island in Mayo. A research programme is underway to construct a ‘living lab’ including a virtual health consultation room.

Under the partnership, the WDC will also use Cisco technology to enhance its existing Digital Hubs Network to help employers and employees seeking more flexible, hybrid work approaches.

The partnership was welcomed by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, TD, who said closing the “digital divide” is at the forefront of rural development policies.

“Whether in terms of physical infrastructure to ensure connectivity, or by refining innovative and emerging technologies, balanced regional development requires digital development,” Humphreys said. “This partnership promises much to be optimistic about.”

Digital skills courses

Cisco estimates that around 70,000 people a year need to gain essential digital skills for Ireland to achieve the benefits of digital inclusion by 2030.

To help Ireland achieve this figure, Cisco is launching its Skills for All programme in the country, which offers free access to digital skills courses that support professional development or retraining.

“I know the Irish Government is committed to bridging digital divides across the country, and Cisco is honoured to help make that vision a reality,” said Cisco SVP and chief government strategy officer Michael Timmeny.

“Since its launch in Ireland four years ago, our Cisco CDA programme in Ireland has helped harness innovation and digitisation to propel economic growth and social inclusion,” Timmeny added. “We look forward to continuing this work for years to come.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic