Review of the year part 1

29 Dec 2003

2003 may go down in the annals as the year when Ireland truly set itself on course to become a knowledge economy — a shift in direction that comes at a price and is far from complete. Revisit the highs and lows in a month-by-month flashback of the year that was. JANUARY-MARCH

SAP hit a €3.5m healthcare jackpot in licensing fees from the continuing rollout of its HR and Financials business applications suites within seven Irish health agencies. At the start of the year the software was already on 15,000 desktops with as many as 15,000 professional users and 20,000 self-service users expected to be using the system by the time rollout is complete… Hewlett-Packard (HP) reclaimed the No 1 position in the global PC market from Dell, which demonstrated some very tangible short-term benefits from its Compaq merger… ItsMobile launched mPark, a mobile parking payment system that brought some high-tech wizardry to the less-than-thrilling practicalities of driving around Dublin, while Adnan Osmani wins Young Scientist of the Year for his ‘graphical, technological and user-friendly advancement of the internet browser’… A less impressive result was Dublin coming 13th out of 14 e-cities in a European survey in terms of communications infrastructure. Happy new year indeed…

Breathing new life into Ireland’s short-lived data centre boom, HP re-opened the 60,000sq ft data storage facility that was originally owned by defunct Metromedia in Citywest, Dublin. The opening of the centre and fibre optic ring consolidated HP Services’ position as the largest IT services company in Ireland, according to HP Services Ireland’s director, Tom Carson… The much-revised national broadband rollout plan finally got under way involving a €65m investment in creating broadband loops around 19 key towns earmarked for development and some 30,000 miles of fibre optic cabling… Sun started the year as it meant to go on with a survival strategy consisting of a slew of new products, slashed prices and continued allegiance towards its own technology and research and development (R&D) capacity. The once high-flying technology powerhouse unveiled a family of network computing products, including a new Sun Fire Blade Server platform, the fruits of a US$500m quarterly R&D spend… Meanwhile, Oracle went on a PR offensive, addressing concerns over its aggressive sales tactics… In the first of a series of grim announcements for third-level science, the Irish Computer Society (ICS) warned that CAO applications for IT courses in 2003 could drop even further than the low levels experienced last year, sparking fears that not only are students missing out on long-term job prospects but also that the industry may experience a crippling skills shortage when growth eventually returns. The ICS had better news when 11 executives from the Revenue Commissioners were among the first to graduate from its newly established ICS Skills Framework…

Our March cover story ruffled a few feathers when it highlighted a technology crisis in schools that saw the Republic falling at least 10 years behind the North where fibre networks will connect all the country’s educational establishments, creating a unique virtual learning environment… Vodafone unveiled its Mobile Office portfolio of business services and products including the Mobile Connect Card… Good news came when Google ended its search for a home and chose to establish a vital array of internet operations in Ireland with the creation of some 200 jobs. IDA Ireland landed the crucial deal aided and abetted by a low corporate tax regime and the existence of vital internet data centre capacity… Microsoft won a multimillion euro deal with the Bank of Ireland to roll out Windows updates across 600 sites, involving 20,000 users in Ireland and the UK… Xilinx, one of the jewels in the crown of Ireland’s technology community, unveiled a €52m extension to its R&D, design and operations centre in Dublin. The Silicon Valley-based company has also designated Ireland as its regional headquarters for Europe, which now accounts for 21pc of group turnover…

Something worth saying …

On the economy
“Globalisation is accelerating the emergence of lower cost locations as serious competitors for many of the activities on which we currently depend for success. We must face this challenge by building competitiveness in areas where we have or can achieve the necessary critical mass” — Martin Cronin, Forfás chief executive

“There’s still an expectation that we’re looking to the US recovery to get back to where we were during the high-growth years. In reality, that’s never going to happen. The big manufacturing projects are not going to go to Ireland but to other lower cost economies” — Mike Galvin, country manager of Cisco Ireland

“All I hear about these days is how Ireland must move up the value chain and away from manufacturing to higher value-add roles like R&D. In the absence of any clear strategy on how this will be achieved, do people not realise that one cannot go without the other? R&D will follow leading manufacturing nations. If the newly formed Enterprise Strategy Group doesn’t realise that and fails to devise a strategy that safeguards manufacturing as well as provides for innovation, then we are sowing the seeds for failure of R&D and the future of the hi-tech base in Ireland” — Phil Hogan TD, Fine Gael spokesman for enterprise, trade and employment

“People now recognise that Ireland is open for business when it comes to research. They recognise that if Ireland says it’s going to do research, as it said it was going to do manufacturing years ago, that we will be serious about it and will be successful” — Dr William Harris, director general of Science Foundation Ireland