The Week That Was

12 Jul 2010

Siliconrepublic editor John Kennedy’s take on the big stories of the tech week.

I am an impatient man. The reason for this is I often want the best for this country in terms of the digital opportunity that is glaringly obvious and therefore I can be very critical when I don’t think the pieces are being assembled fast enough. Firstly, I wish the State would realise that fibre infrastructure is far more important than tarmac. That every Irish citizen should be connected digitally in order to ensure they have the best economic opportunities going forward.

That’s why it was with giddy excitement on Thursday afternoon that I marched across the courtyard at Leinster House to get an exclusive preview of, a forthcoming news portal from the Government that will tie together various elements of social media like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr to provide a greater picture of the wheels of State turning. is a polished effort that the Government Information Service (GIS) say is a representation of Government in action, not a political tool.

There is a lot of work to be done on Ireland’s digital strategy, but shows a willingness to get to grips with new technology and let’s hope it’s a sign of more to follow.

End of term report

Again to see the wheels of State turning in an age where everything is getting faster must be lauded and the news that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan TD has delivered an end-of-term report that shows important energy and communications legislation is being worked through. Energy legislation passed by DCENR this session, such as the Biofuels Obligation Act and Carbon Windfall Levy, are helping to focus Ireland’s green economy. Also passed is the Communications Regulations Amendment Act, which has important measures for the Irish communications consumer and industry.

Let’s talk

But examples of what’s also possible in the digital age were once again demonstrated by the UK Government, in which Prime Minister David Cameron and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed a clever stratagem to use social media to help make public spending more effective. Called ‘The Spending Challenge’, it is part of the UK’s efforts to have honest dialogue with its 26 million subjects who use Facebook. It is an enlightened approach, but there can be no happy news when spending cuts are applied. Open and honest dialogue could cushion the blow? Time will tell.

Happy landings

On to another plain, I mean plane – the world’s first solar-powered aeroplane landed successfully after a 24-hour jaunt around the world. The solar-powered aircraft set off from Payerne airfield in central Switzerland on Wednesday for a 24-hour flight, with the aim of achieving the longest and highest ever flight carried out by a solar plane. As the sun rose over Switzerland, the plane’s sole passenger and pilot, André Borschberg, kept chanting from the cockpit: “It’s only the beginning”. The experimental airplane climbed to almost 9,000 metres and then saved energy to still fly during the night. With a 63-metre wingspan and a 1,600 kg take-off weight, the plane captured the sun’s rays via 11,628 solar cells, each 150 microns thick, with 10,748 solar cells on the wings and 880 on the horizontal stabiliser. Energy was stored in lithium polymer batteries. Borschberg was right, it is only the beginning.

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