Ireland’s business broadband penetration is still too low

18 Aug 2009

Despite dramatic strides in recent years in growing broadband to 1.2m subscribers, broadband penetration amongst Irish businesses is lower than the EU-15 average.

It is especially lower amongst small Irish businesses, according to the latest report from the National Competitiveness Council (NCC).

Ireland also remains significantly behind leading EU countries in terms of households with broadband access.

According to the NCC around 85pc of Irish businesses have broadband compared with leading countries like Finland, France and Spain which are at 95pc. The EU-15 average is 88pc. Ireland ranked 12th in the EU-15 for broadband penetration.

Only 44pc of Irish households have broadband compared with the EU-15 average of 54pc. This compares with the Netherlands and Denmark with 75pc and the UK with 64pc of households now using broadband.

The NCC quoted the OECD’s Broadband Quality Score, an indication of each country’s readiness to support next generation video and web services, and found Ireland ranked 25th out of the OECD-28 in terms of readiness.

As software applications require more bandwidth in the future , many countries will need to upgrade their capabilities.

Ireland experienced a dramatic fall in e-government availability in terms of EU-15 rankings, falling 10 places from number three in 2002 to 13th place in 2007. It appears other countries have progressed their e-government initiatives while Ireland’s once groundbreaking initiatives such as the Public Services Broker (PSB) have fallen by the wayside.

Enterprise spending on ICT in Ireland also appears to be waning and Ireland’s investment in IT especially ranks amongst the lowest of EU-14 countries. As a percentage of GDP, Ireland ranks 14th out of 14 countries in terms of overall ICT investment.

Ireland spends 2.72pc of GDP on communications and 1.7pc on IT, compared with nations like Poland which spends 5pc on communications and 3.4pc on IT and Sweden which spends 3.5pc on communications and 3.5pc on IT.

Overall the NCC report has found that Ireland’s competitiveness has improved and the cost of doing business here has fallen dramatically. Compared with 17 other nations the cost base is still too high.

However, Ireland’s key strengths in terms of a young, well-educated workforce and R&D activities are still in place.

By John Kennedy

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