Digital industry body needed for Ireland, says expert

5 Feb 2008

There is a need in Ireland for an organisation that can represent the entire digital industry including web, mobile and any medium that digital content can be delivered through, says Paul Walsh, chair of the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA), which plans to set up a like-minded body in Ireland.

Walsh said he would like to have a body that would act not only as a way of connecting and representing all those involved in the digital industry but one that can set standards and best practice also.

Ideally, such an organisation would not only give pricing guidelines to clients and freelancers but also act as a body of endorsement for future digital technology or digital media courses.

Through BIMA, which has been around since 1985, Walsh has been putting all of these practices in place: “I changed it from what it used to be – it was perceived by people as an IIA (Irish Internet Association)-type organisation – and I have turned that around so it is seen as more engaging and really out there in the industry.”

Walsh, who is also founder and CEO of web standards specialist firm Segala, said he would like this new association to position Ireland on the global stage in terms of the digital sector because he feels the country is too reliant on the service-based companies here for tax incentives.

“There are enough intelligent people and companies already in Ireland to change things so that we’re not reliant on the IDA bringing in big companies. We could encourage an ecosystem so that we have Irish-grown businesses.”

While the IIA has been around for quite a while, Walsh says that the organisation looks at only one piece of the digital pie, the web, and even at that smaller players in the industry tell him they don’t feel catered for.

“I think we need a fresh approach because most IIA members are the bigger companies.

“What I’m hearing from smaller members of the IIA is that it focuses on specific areas like search marketing while they would like a voice for the smaller company or the freelance developer so their interests can be represented as much as the big players,” said Walsh.

“It would be nice to have an association that would bring other organisations together, like the IIA and the Agency for Direct Marketing, to endorse and embrace the stuff that they do well,” he added.

Key members of this new association should be diverse enough to represent the interests of each of the stakeholders, says Walsh.

This would mean including someone from academia, a representative of a big organisation like Microsoft or Google, someone who has set up a couple of small companies and who has the entrepreneurial instinct, as well as individuals with expertise from the mobile, television and broadcasting industry.

Some freelancers and small Irish firms say a number of initiatives to encourage the growth of the digital industry here in Ireland have a bias towards US companies and tax incentives.

The Digital Hub, an incubation space for such development, has 55 desk spaces reserved for US companies yet one Irish entrepreneur said he found it difficult to secure a single desk space.

The inaugural dinner of the for-now-named Irish Digital Industry Association was held last week and attended by various members of the digital industry community, including founder John Breslin and Joe Drumgoole of digital storage firm PutPlace.

By Marie Boran