Rural Ireland has a huge economic opportunity, says Google chief

19 Oct 2016361 Shares

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Geography is no longer a restricting factor as long as Ireland continues investing in future-proofing broadband connectivity. Loch Hyne. Image: Phil Darby/Shutterstock

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The digital economy is a major opportunity to supercharge rural Ireland, according to the head of Google Ireland, Ronan Harris.

Harris was speaking ahead of National Digital Week which coincides with the second call of the Skibbereen-based Ludgate seed capital fund, valued at €450,000.

National Digital Week aims to develop entrepreneurship by making digital accessible for all, and is the only event of its kind in a non-urban area in Ireland.

‘At Google we believe that there is a huge economic opportunity for rural Ireland as more and more people build successful businesses online’
– RONAN HARRIS

Between 10 and 12 November, some 1,600 entrepreneurs, digital marketers, technology enthusiasts and those embarking on a digital journey will descend on Skibbereen in Cork.

National Digital Week 2016 is attracting over 80 speakers including Ben Verwaayen, former CEO of Alcatel-Lucent and founding partner of Keen Venture; Mark MacGann, senior board advisor at Uber; David Puttnam, Ireland’s Digital Champion and Oscar-winning film producer; Gráinne McCarthy, London Bureau Chief at Wall Street Journal; and Ronan Harris, VP of Sales at Google EMEA and head of Google Ireland.

Established in 2015, the 10,000 sq ft Ludgate digital hub at the refurbished Old Bakery building is to create 500 new jobs over the next five years, with an initial 75 or more jobs guaranteed in the start-up phase.

“At Google, we believe that there is a huge economic opportunity for rural Ireland as more and more people build successful businesses online,” said Harris, who recently described Ireland as the data capital of Europe.

“Skibbereen is leading the way and we’re delighted to bring the Google stage to National Digital Week. We’ve gathered together some of Ireland’s leading online entrepreneurs to share their insights, and the Google stage will be a hive of innovation and inspiration for entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses on mobile and using YouTube.”

Gigabit society

Opened in July, the Ludgate Digital Hub is the first rural hub to receive a 1Gbps provided by Vodafone, as the town is connected to Siro’s 100pc fibre-optic broadband network.

“Vodafone is focused on and committed to delivering a ‘gigabit society’ in Ireland; where access to 1Gbps broadband speed is accessible, regardless of where in the country a person lives,” Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary explained.

“The benefits of connectivity through high-speed broadband to homes and businesses countrywide is huge in terms of bridging the urban/rural digital divide and facilitating economic recovery,” said O’Leary, who will be speaking at National Digital Week.

Geography is history

“It is great that Skibbereen is taking such a leadership position in the transformation of rural Ireland into a gigabit society,” said co-organiser Callum Donnelly.

“In rural Ireland, we have so many talented people of all ages. However, talent often leaves our communities. National Digital Week is about rebranding rural Ireland as a location in which people can stay by choice to establish businesses, that can scale, employ skilled employees, and compete at a global level – that is the beauty of digital.

“Geography is no longer a restricting factor as long as Ireland continues investing in future-proofing broadband connectivity.

“National Digital Week combines tech with the beauty of West Cork, and we are confident that the three days we have mapped out will provide an inspirational platform for attendees to learn and share the latest thinking for thriving in our ever-evolving digital economy.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com