Digital Development Plan – A national priority


28 May 2009

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There is a host of other countries who are competing to be the world leader in the ‘smart space’. This is a global race to outpace the competition in the digital economy. Ireland must prioritise building our nation’s digital capabilities, and we need to do it now if we are to stay in the game.

Nations across the planet are in a race to be in the vanguard of the global digital economy – it’s a matter of economic life or death. Countries are investing now in digital infrastructure and services because they are vital to economic growth, recovery and job creation.

The digital economy underpins our whole economy and its competitiveness. Investment in digital infrastructure and services must take precedence over everything else. It is the bedrock on which all other sectors depend; it is the key to our recovery and future economic success.

If we prioritise digital, we will create the growth to fund other development. If we fail to make this a national imperative then all other future revenue will be adversely affected.

In the last century, Ireland had the National Development Plan. Now our economic future depends on the digital economy and we need to have a National Digital Development Plan.

The vision of a ‘smart economy’ will need to be transformed into a costed Digital Development Plan, with a clear, achievable timeline and a budget to make it happen.

Given the declared investment priorities of countries such as Britain and France, the economic imperative for Ireland cannot be understated.

THE FUTURE IS NOW

There is a host of other countries who are competing to be the world leader in the ‘smart space’. This is a global race to outpace the competition in the digital economy. Ireland must prioritise building our nation’s digital capabilities, and we need to do it now if we are to stay in the game.

Our closest neighbour, the UK, is about to publish a full report and action plan entitled ‘Digital Britain’ that will pivot on five core aims:

  • To modernise its digital networks
  • To use the internet to better serve citizens and businesses
  • To aim to make the UK the world leader for digital media content
  • To create a dynamic investment climate for its entrepreneurs
  • To equip citizens with skills to work and participate in a digital society.

If Britain succeeds in putting all of this in place by 2012, Ireland will find it harder to compete for inward investment.

Britainis not alone. One of US President Barack Obama’s first actions upon entering office was to appoint a technology and science advisory committee, making it clear that technology and communications are vital to economic growth and recovery.

The government of France recently launched its France Numérique 2012 Plan to stren-gthen France’s digital position and enhance its broader competitiveness amidst the global economic crisis.

As the Digital Britain interim report has pointed out: “The message laid out in the plan is clear: the digital economy is the most dynamic sector in the world and, as the global recession bites, it is essential to nurture those parts of the economy that can generate growth potential and jobs.”

The current downturn has often been described as an economic war, and as the most famous military scientist of all noted: “When your ardour is dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, the chieftains of neighbouring states will take advantage of your crisis to act” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).

Ireland has a head start

Irelandis home to a technology industry that gainfully employs over 100,000 people and exports some €50bn worth of products annually.

The IDA continues to do sterling work in attracting knowledge-based industries, and Ireland has a massively disproportionate amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) in comparison to its European partners. This critical mass of knowledge-based industries is huge plus in our favour.

There are many programmes and initiatives in science, research and development. And Ireland continues to be an attractive location for life sciences and new technology companies.

Visionary investments in metropolitan area networks (MANs) will result in 120 towns being ringed in fibre, and the recent announcement on the National Broadband Scheme and on investing in green technologies reflect the willingness of Government to help enhance the nation’s digital capabilities.

Irelandmust play to her strengths. Its pro-EU credentials have been essential in attracting knowledge-based FDI in the past. With a new generation of digital services industries and green technology companies looking to service the EU market, Ireland, with its high concentration of knowledge-led companies coupled with a state-of-the-art fibre connectivity, will be a no-brainer for the next wave of FDI.

Digital Development Plan 

Ireland’s vision for a ‘smart economy’ and its existing programmes need to be brought together into a cohesive, costed action plan. These actions – which encompass infrastructure investment, public sector reform, education, regulation and citizen services – would in turn bolster investor confidence and create an Ireland that would emerge from the downturn as once again a country to emulate.

Government has set out the vision of a ‘smart economy’ and there are many excellent programmes and initiatives supporting the knowledge-led economy. Now we need a plan to knit all of these together.

To achieve this, Ireland needs a National Digital Development Plan that would be equal in importance to the National Development Plan and plans such as Transport 21.

A National Digital Development Plan should be given precedence. In a world where fibre is becoming more important than roads, a Digital 21 Plan will matter more than even Transport 21.

Digital infrastructure is the central nervous system upon which the success of the whole smart economy rests. If we have a world-leading digital infrastructure, we can succeed in transforming our economy to take advantage of the new global economy.

What’s needed is a real, costed action plan that sets out clear goals around:

A top-down investment in fibre optic infrastructure that unites existing ‘stranded’ fibre assets sitting idle around the country

  • Boosting IT literacy and maths performance in our schools
  • Supporting our entrepreneurs to compete globally
  • Promoting greater inclusion amongst all citizens
  • Making Ireland a vibrant home to digital content industries that encompass video games, film, music and literature
  • Ensuring schools are properly equipped with cutting-edge connectivity and technology
  • Making Ireland the No 1 location in the world not only for ICT investment and bio-pharma, but also for services and the business of creating and protecting intellectual property.

Digital 21

Digital 21 is a campaign to highlight the imperative of creating an action programme to secure the digital infrastructure and services upon which the success of the economy depends.

Siliconrepublic.com has brought together the leaders of some of Ireland’s top technology companies in a partnership for action on the digtial economy. These thought leaders will share their views on the core issues and components of a vibrant digital economy.

By sharing the thoughts of Ireland’s technology leaders, we hope to provoke discussion and stimulate debate around the key issues that will determine our future. As Ireland’s leading technology news service, we want to play our part by creating a constructive forum for discussing the digital economy. Through www.digital21.ie we hope to create a valuable forum for engagement with those interested in accelerating the development of Ireland’s digital economy.

Our aim is to work in a spirit of partnership with industry, Government, business media and all stakeholders to add impetus to the common effort which will be needed to succeed.

Over the coming months, Silicon Republic, online and in print, will cover the core areas of digital infrastructure; entrepreneurialism; creating an innovation nation; and talent and education, and will culminate in October in a summary of actions needed that sets out what needs to be done and how it can happen.

The read more of the views and opinions of Ireland’s technology leaders on the country’s need for a digital development plan, visit www.digital21.ie.