Ireland must invest in the next generation of digital infrastructure to enable the country to steal a march and sustain its present edge in the emerging big data world, the CEO of Sea Fibre Networks Diane Hodnett told the Digital Ireland Forum in Dublin on Friday.
Hodnett was the driving force behind the deployment of the CeltixConnect fibre gateway that landed at Porth Darfarch in Wales on 1 February. The 144-fibre network rolled out by Sea Fibre Networks – connecting the financial centres of Dublin, Manchester and London, is aiming to be a game changer, more than doubling the existing data capacity between Ireland and the UK and helping to support the online media explosion.
At the forum, Hodnett said data is the new oil and as with oil the myriad of applications for data and mining and analysing could be huge for Ireland.
She said the large community of global ICT firms, from Microsoft and Oracle right up to high-growth social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, not only need this infrastructure but also services to support what Ireland does.
“What we need to understand in relation to the community is what kind of services can we build around the big data providers – we have LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook – we need infrastructure to support big data and just to be able to analyse it.
“You need infrastructure in relation to connectivity so that you can get content on or off the island," she said.
Open access to Government
Hodnett said the present Government "right up to minister level" is much more open to understanding the opportunities of the digital age than the previous administration.
She said that in previous years, paving the way for CeltixConnect and explaining the need for the fibre gateway and digital infrastructure was often met with cynicism. In order to get a licence to press ahead with the UK-Ireland gateway, she had to pay at the upper end of the regulatory table after international comparisons were done.
“It was extremely frustrating," she said.
She urged the present administration to keep the door open. "Companies like EMC, Intel, Google and BT deserve open access to Government which should be welcoming, particularly in terms of new employment.
“But we must also realise that new employment will come from small companies, not just large companies like Facebook that can create hundreds of positions, but smaller companies with five up to 25 and not beyond that.
“We need to be understanding of the different requirements – if you have 10 new cloud computing companies who need telecoms we need to see policy for these smaller companies," Hodnett said.
Go to the Digital Ireland Forum microsite for highlights of the event.