The digital business week

13 Sep 2010

A digest of the top business and technology news stories from the past week.

Switch to electronic payments could save Ireland €1bn yearly

Ireland stands to reap savings of more than €1bn annually if the Government seizes the opportunity to move to electronic payment systems. At present, 78pc of all transactions in the Irish economy are cheque-based, undermining our claims of being a smart economy.

The damage of being a heavy cash and cheque-based economy can be seen in a growing black market economy and the increasing spate of tiger kidnappings that threaten bank and retail workers.

But not only this, Irish businesses wait on average 60 to 70 days on payment from customers with the old line “the cheque is in the post” being as much a threat to the employment of SME workers as the lack of credit available from banks.

This is at the same time as some of the world’s most sophisticated internet companies, from to Google, PayPal and eBay, are operating their e-commerce operations in Ireland which rely on instantaneous credit, or debit card payments via the internet.

According to a new report from National Irish Bank, chief economist Dr Ronnie O’Toole, Ireland’s payments system – the means by which we pay for goods and services and transfer wealth – remains dominated by cash and cheques which are expensive, slow and harmful to the environment.

According to the report, Ireland is the most intensive cash user in Europe. Irish people withdrew more than €25bn in cash from ATMs in 2009.

Ireland needs smarter cities to capture future FDI

Ireland’s success in winning foreign direct investment (FDI) will over the coming decade depend heavily on key cities emerging as smart cities with the kind of transport and lifestyle infrastructure that would attract the type of talent companies need to locate there.

In recent months, Ireland has excelled in attracting cutting-edge investments, such as Google’s 200-job location project, which is locating in Dublin, and EA Games which is locating 200 jobs in Galway. The country has also seen windfall investments by some of the world’s top internet firms, including Facebook, Zynga, eBay and LinkedIn in recent months.

The key to winning these investments has been not only the attractive tax breaks available but also the availability of local and international talented technology workers and people with language skills.

The attractiveness of increasingly cosmopolitan cities like Dublin, Cork and Galway for young, talented professionals from around the world as locations to live is key to feeding investing companies’ appetite for skilled, multicultural workforces. But, going into the future, driven primarily by the changed economic landscape, talented and skilled professionals will be mobile, opting to live in cities or towns based on lifestyle choices and access to infrastructure, such as integrated transport and broadband.

A report compiled by IBM by economist Dr Constantin Gurdgiev, Mary Keeling and Susanne Dirks claims that cities must focus their attention on attracting, retaining and enabling people with diversified and high quality skills and knowledge.

Russian trade mission generates more than €9m of deals

Deals for new export sales worth more than €9m were signed by Irish firms during last week’s trade mission in Russia.

According to Minister for Trade and Commerce, Billy Kelleher TD, who led 30 Irish firms on the trade mission organised by Enterprise Ireland, this result is “another important step in Ireland’s economic recovery”.

The firms were from a range of sectors, including engineering, construction, food and drink, education, business services and information communications technology. Irish high-tech firms Digisoft, Adaptive Mobile, OpenJaw and Norkom Technologies were among those that landed lucrative new sales deals.

Trinity College Dublin and Dublin Institute of Technology announced partnership agreements with higher education institutions in Russia.

“Our economic recovery will be export-led and the Government’s strategy is to target markets such as Russia with high growth potential that can generate revenues and jobs for Irish firms,” said the minister. “The €9.2m worth of deals we landed here this week will create jobs back home and add momentum to our economic recovery.

“The trade mission has laid important foundations on which we can build a better trading and bilateral and trading relationship with Russia.”

Frank Ryan, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, noted that Russia is Europe’s largest emerging market and said the success of the mission verifies that Irish products and services are well matched to Russian market demands.

HP sues Mark Hurd over new Oracle job

After allowing former CEO Mark Hurd to step down in recent weeks, HP is now suing him over his appointment as co-president of Oracle, citing serious “strategic advantages” it would have and knowledge of HP’s strengths and weaknesses.

HP, the biggest technology company in the world, is suing Hurd in an attempt to stop him taking up his new position at Oracle.

HP warned that the appointment would reveal valuable trade secrets and confidential information.

Hurd stepped down as HP CEO over questions about his expenses. This came after an allegation of sexual harassment by a female consultant, however HP found it did not break its policy on the subject.

FleetMatics acquires US software company SageQuest

Irish GPS tracking software provider FleetMatics has acquired a software-as-a-service (SaaS) firm for an undisclosed sum. FleetMatics’ acquisition of SageQuest will help the company grow its global market share.

“With this acquisition of SageQuest, FleetMatics will extend its ability to deliver the best-in-class products and services to fleets of all sizes,” explained Jim Travers, CEO of FleetMatics.

“It is the strength of our combined products and services, as well as our reputation as superior service providers that compelled this combination to happen.”

SageQuest LLC provides proven GPS vehicle management solutions that improve the efficiency and productivity of mobile workers for utility, cable and broadband companies throughout North America.

HP offers IT solutions for small businesses

HP has introduced its ‘Just Right IT’ portfolio, offering small businesses IT capabilities for an affordable price.

The portfolio includes new server, printer and PC products designed and priced specifically for small businesses.

“While small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) remain cautious about the economy, they continue to look for ways to simplify operations and prepare for growth,” said Anil Miglani, senior vice-president at AMI Partners, a strategy consulting firm.

“HP, with the help of its channel partners, offers an expanded technology portfolio with realistic financing options that enable SMBs to manage data expansion, improve employee productivity and retain, as well as attract, clients.”

The offerings also provide data protection solutions, such as HP Data Protector Express 5.0 Software, HP P4000 Virtual SAN Appliance (VSA) Software, HP StorageWorks P2000 G3 Modular Smart Array and HP ITSM Assessment for Virtualised Environments Service.