Despite the brave aspirations of recent years, Dublin currently ranks 13th out of 14 key digital cities throughout the world in terms of infrastructure, e-commerce and a worsening digital divide, a new report from Dublin Chamber of Commerce reveals.
The second annual e-city report, one of similar Dublin Chamber reports on infrastructural issues such as transport, shows that despite some progress Dublin has failed to keep up with progress by other leading world cities with electronic ambitions. As a result, poor broadband infrastructure and competitiveness, have made the city less attractive as a location for foreign investment.
Iona chairman Chris Horn (pictured), who has been appointed e-city facilitator, told siliconrepublic.com: “As a global economy, there is a whole new ballgame in terms of multinational investment. If you’re sitting in the headquarters of a major corporation in America and trying to decide where to locate your next major capital investment, it is no longer certain that Dublin and Ireland would be on the list. The quality and cost of our broadband infrastructure is not competitive and quality of life issues such as the digital divide will go against us.”
The report ranked Dublin 13th out of 14 cities in the world regarded as powerhouses in terms of IT strategy and progress, otherwise known as e-cities. Helsinki, Seoul and Singapore headed the list, which included Copenhagen, Dubai, Dublin, London, Milan, San Jose, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Washington and Prague, which was 14th on the list.
The Chamber’s report called for the urgent need to develop a comprehensive and coherent national plan to develop e-commerce and other e-based activities, fundamentally supported by high quality broadband infrastructure.
The report said that the plan could be developed and implemented through a stakeholders group, along the model of a similar structure currently operating in the UK, involving government departments and agencies, telecom operators, business organisations, the socially disadvantaged and the general public.
Specific measures highlighted included wider provision of public services over the internet and greater development of e-procurement services. The measures highlighted also included developing state training over video broadband applications, the establishment of a network of video broadband centres and national promotional programmes for rural and marginalised communities.
The Dublin Chamber also called for the creation of a government chief information officer (CIO) who would operate in the same way that a CIO operates in major corporations, who would have a budget and who would report to the Taoiseach with full control to implement strategic IT support for all government functions.
Horn said that the report looked at such aspects as leadership, general infrastructure (roads, housing, telecoms and healthcare), labour competitiveness (skills availability and cost), entrepreneurial activity, legal and regulatory environment, capital availability and taxation and incentives.
He said that Dublin scored highly in terms of entrepreneurial activity and taxation and incentives, was moderate in terms of its regulatory and legal environment, but fared poorly in terms of capital availability and how we are addressing a widening digital divide.
However, it was infrastructure that was causing the most concern: “There are a lot of good intentions, but we are not making much progress at all, while other cities are moving ahead. We are in danger of being left behind,” he said.
Horn highlighted the New Connections strategy document that was unveiled earlier last year and which incorporated e-government and the 67-town broadband plan and expressed surprise that opposition political parties have failed to spark debate on the delivery and progress of the plan. “Aspirations are good but delivery is very poor. The vision is to enable every citizen and business to have 5Mb per second broadband by 2005 in keeping with EU directives,” he said.
“Such a strategy needs strong commitment and there is little evidence of that at present. Someone needs to take the same brave measures that the government took in the 1930s to provide electricity to every home in Ireland. That same level of commitment should be made to provide high quality broadband pervasively across the country. That needs investment, which at present is not apparent or visible,” Horn told siliconrepublic.com.
The e-City Working Group, under the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, includes participants from IBEC, Esat BT, NTL, Eircom, Dublin City Development Board, RTÉ, KPMG, McKinsey & Company, AIB, Iona and Microsoft.
By John Kennedy