‘High-speed broadband is a fundamental, a necessity’

3 Jun 2010

Lord David Puttnam outlines why broadband is crucial for Ireland’s future economic success.

Lord David Puttnam, the renowned film producer behind films like Chariots of Fire, The Killing Fields, The Duellists, Bugsy Malone, Memphis Belle and The Mission took over from Lord Stephen Carter to drive the Digital Britain Act through Parliament.

The Act, which clarifies issues around copyright and broadband access, will be integral to driving potentially 1 million new jobs in the UK’s creative industries in the next decade.

“To be a developed nation today and not have a clear digital vision for yourself as an economy and for your individuals living in the country is a no-brainer. One of the things we are beginning to see in the UK following on from the Obama experience is the very pronounced impact the digital world is already beginning to have on politics, and that’s only going to grow.”

Where does Puttnam think Ireland could excel in digital policy in terms of digital infrastructure?

“Ireland has in a sense pre-empted one of the most important outcomes – you have already got tougher with the ISPs in terms of illegal downloading than we have in the UK and the important thing now is the degree to which government has the courage to carry through on that.”

The International Content Services Centre

One of the novel plans on the table in Ireland is the creation of an IFSC for content protection, the International Content Services Centre.

“I think Ireland could pull it off. My only concern is there’s too much reliance. I don’t want the success to rest on advantageous tax rates. Those are the economies that, over time, will get left behind. I want that success to rest on the fact that Ireland does it better, more effectively and more efficiently.”

In the UK close to 90pc of schools have whiteboards and the government has unveiled a clever scheme that will give a free laptop to every child that qualifies for school dinners – a dual-purpose strategy whereby those kids’ parents may use the laptops and broadband to source employment. Despite a 10-year-long economic boom, Ireland has only just begun its ICT in education strategy with its Smart Schools=Smart Economy programme.

In tandem, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan has a plan to put 100Mbps connections in every school.

“High-speed broadband is a fundamental, a necessity. The idea that you would have an educational establishment that didn’t have access to high-speed broadband is almost bizarre. It doesn’t bear thinking about. We’re moving fast beyond the computer on the desk for the kid; we already know about the fact that kids who don’t have computers at home are in a sense immediately disadvantaged.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Lord David Puttnam, the legendary film producer, board member of education technology firm Promethean and the digital adviser to the UK government

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years