DHDA urges Ireland to grasp digital opportunity to save itself

27 Jul 2011

The Digital Hub Development Authority (DHDA) has urged Ireland to grasp the economic and social opportunities presented by the internet, which is no longer a novelty but a serious business enabler. In its annual report, income in 2010 dropped to €4.2m from €4.4m a year earlier.

In its 2010 annual results, the DHDA revealed that exchequer grants to the agency increased to €2.2m from €1.7m a year earlier. Expenditure, including staff-related costs, declined to €3.9m from €4.7m a year earlier.

The agency’s asset base, including development assets, investment properties and assets under construction, declined from €52m in 2009 to €14.9m in 2010. Current liabilities are down to €1.3m from €1.9m in 2009.

Net cash inflow declined to €1.8m from €2m in 2009.

DHDA chief executive Philip Flynn took the opportunity to urge the State to consider the cost savings, time efficiencies and service improvements that could be delivered by public and private-sector organisations through increased use of the internet and digital media technologies.

He pointed out that only 20pc of SMEs in Ireland are active on the internet and transacting via e-commerce compared with 40pc of their counterparts in the UK. Irish people spend €3bn online per annum, with €2bn of this being spent on products and services that originate outside the country.

What we owe to younger generations

“We see no reason why this imbalance cannot be redressed quite quickly through targeted stimulus programmes to get new businesses online and support existing SMEs to expand their online presence. 

“Younger generations – who have grown up with the internet and cannot imagine a world without it – expect to be able to conduct almost all transactions online. And, indeed, people of all ages now want convenience and choice when it comes to their interaction with public and private-sector organisations. 

“While there are notable exceptions, public institutions and SMEs in Ireland generally have been slow to capitalise on the potential offered by the internet. We need to convince them that they can save time and money – and offer a better service – through the use of online tools,” he said.

Flynn cited a number of basic ways in which public and private-sector organisations can use the internet to offer better services and achieve efficiencies, including:

  • First and foremost, making products and services available to purchase online, where feasible – and in the public sector delivering services more conveniently through the use of online tools.
  • Capitalising on the pervasive use of social media to interact better with customers; to attract new business from new global markets; to build and sustain a loyal community of customers and clients; and to engage more effectively with members of the public.
  • Increased use of ‘webinars’, virtual meetings and conference calls to cut back on meeting costs and travel expenses. 
  • Making calls via the internet (VoIP), rather than through traditional telephone lines, to avail of cheaper rates.

Internet no longer a novelty but a serious business platform

“These aren’t revolutionary suggestions and many organisations are already employing some of these measures,” he said.

“But what we need to see is the use of online tools integrated across all business functions and mainstreamed throughout our public and private sectors. 

“Digital content and digital platforms continue to expand globally and, in particular, there has been explosive growth in the use of mobile applications and services. People have come to expect ongoing technological innovation, increased portability of technology and services, and the best possible value for money,” Flynn urged.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years