Take a look at the children that live and breathe in online environments like Club Penguin or even the Facebook generation. Couple that with the fact that the gaming industry has gained momentum and taken over the film industry with Grand Theft Auto IV outdoing Indiana Jones this summer.
These two trends point to an all too obvious roadmap for investment in ‘Ireland Inc’, according to Magnet CEO, Mark Kellett, where digital natives and innovations in gaming will shape the future of the technology industry.
But according to Kellett, if we take a look at the Government’s track record – compare its investment in the film industry in comparison to gaming and its attitude towards ICT (information and communication technology) in schools with 16 teachers recently removed from ICT training – we can see a lot needs to be done.
Broadband connectivity is vital in all of this: “If Ireland wants to differentiate itself in the gaming industry just take a look at Ubisoft. This company employs 100 people in northern England but they employ nearly 3,000 people in Canada. Why is that?
“Because the Canadian Government said we want to innovate on something unique and that’s what I want to see in an Irish context. You don’t only need commercial operators trying to push the barrier forward, you need the Government taking steps from an Ireland Inc perspective.”
We were once recognised for a strong software base which is now gone, Kellett said. We have focused on pharmaceuticals and financial services but how can we reinvigorate the economy now?
“Look at how the Irish Film Board is being funded but where is the investment in gaming? There’s a magnificent opportunity for a small island nation to look at games development, an industry bigger than the movie industry.”
Added to this is the ground-up view. Eamon Ryan has talked about investment in ICT for schools but then you have 16 teachers pulled out of ICT education and redeployed back to their schools, Kellett said.
“Looking at everything from the Facebook generation to Club Penguin. You think to yourself that these kids are using language like ‘meet me in server room such and such’ and they are finding it very easy: if seven year olds are using this technical language, then you know where this is going.
“In 10 years time how will they consume data, how will they consume content? How will they conduct business? But who is innovating these kids? Who is saying here is how you can use ICT to learn?”
Even if ICT equipment is installed, many schools are housing their students in portacabins, running the risk of rats and rainwater damaging the equipment, Kellett said.
So the question remains: where is our investment in Ireland Inc?
By Marie Boran