The Irish Government’s National Digital Strategy will be unveiled in the coming weeks and at the same time the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will work with consultants to map out infrastructure to ensure that a minimum of 30Mbps exists across the island.
That is the message Ireland’s Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, delivered to the Digital Ireland Forum this morning in his opening address.
Rabbitte also said it is his intention to achieve the universal minimum of 30Mbps within the lifetime of the present Government.
Rabbitte last year unveiled the National Broadband Strategy, which aims to give half the country 70Mbps broadband by 2015, followed by two tiers of at least 40Mbps to a further 20pc and a minimum of 30Mbps in every single premises.
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Rabbitte told delegates at Digital Ireland Forum in the Convention Centre Dublin that the past year has been marked by a number of key developments that will transform Ireland’s digital economy. These included the switch-off of analogue TV which has freed a large amount of spectrum for 3G and 4G, the rollout of new next-generation access services by fixed-line providers, including UPC and Eircom, fibre rollouts by ESB, mobile operators acquiring 4G licences as part of the ComReg spectrum auction and semi-State and private operators creating fibre links with the UK and Europe.
“My department is about to embark on a public procurement project to deliver the minimum 30Mbps speeds. The Energy Council will convene next week but quickly after that we will be announcing the appointment of consultants to assist in the process of mapping the work to accompany the application of the National Broadband Strategy’s aim to deliver at least 30Mbps in the lifetime of the Government across the whole island and encourage investment in areas not deemed commercially viable.”
In tandem with the strategy to boost connectivity on the island of Ireland, Rabbitte said digital engagement by citizens and businesses is critical. He said the plan to put 100Mbps broadband in every secondary school is continuing apace, and that the newly appointed Digital Champion Lord David Puttnam is passionate about education.
“He is a strong and influential advocate for digital adoption. He will engage with your sector to challenge and achieve key goals in our strategy,” Rabbitte said.
Irish Government to pilot voucher scheme to bring SMEs into the digital economy
The minister said it is fundamentally important to get more firms trading online.
“As few as 23pc of SMEs are trading online. By contrast, Irish consumers are spending €4bn online every year and 76pc of this goes outside the country. This heightens the necessity for companies to compete, challenge and turn this into an opportunity.”
Rabbitte pointed to the Government’s jobs plan, which envisages an additional 2,000 businesses commencing trading online in 2013.
He also said he will be piloting a voucher scheme in the coming months that will provide small firms with upfront funding to develop an online trading platform.
“We are confident that we can win over a significant number of small enterprises to help them grow the value of their businesses.
“This should be a win-win for the digital enterprise sector in Ireland. You have a major role to play in enabling economic stability and an important role in defining future economic success.”
Rabbitte also said the global digital economy is currently valued at US$20trn. “According to research from Intel and Ericsson, the number of connected devices will grow from 5bn to 50bn by 2020.”
Rabbitte said Ireland’s Presidency of the EU Council is putting the country at centre stage in terms of pivotal developments, such as the security mandate for ENISA, new rules around the re-use of public-sector information. “We are also making progress on new e-signature legislation, cybersecurity and web accessibility proposals.”
He said that in June the EU will take its Digital Assembly out of Brussels and will hold it in Dublin Castle for the first time.
Watch Communication Minister Pat Rabbitte’s opening address at the Digital Ireland Forum here: