The next stage of the National Development Plan (NDP) should make specific provision for the development of Ireland’s IT infrastructure and skills provision, an organisation representing the country’s IT managers and chief information officers has warned.
IT infrastructure and skills provision are as important in the next NDP as the provisions for road and public transport were in the last one, the Association of Information Managers in Ireland (AIMI) said.
AIMI president John Gannon said there is as yet no evidence of a specific strand for IT investment across the NDP and that the absence of such a provision would be a critical flaw in the new plan.
A recent AGM of AIMI identified important measures such as the introduction of IT skills into second-level education, investment in teaching skills to support educators, provisions for teleworking and mobile working, shared IT service centres for small and micro businesses and planned investment in wireless broadband infrastructure.
Gannon said that investment in these areas should be felt across the entire economy and not just in certain sectors and regions.
“The NDP is the blueprint to bring our economy as a whole onto a new level again by 2013,” Gannon explained. “Information technology is, and will increasingly be, central to the working lives of both business and the consumer. We, as the people with the responsibility to make investment decisions on what IT to use, will between us be laying out up to €15bn in the lifetime of this plan and it is shocking to find that there seems to be no specific strand in the NDP on ensuring that society is geared up to benefit from IT.
“While we applaud the Government’s continuing commitment to making Ireland a base for creating technologies, the opportunity for most workplaces to save time and money lies around making the most of existing and evolving technologies. This won’t just happen on its own and it is wrong to assume that market forces will bring it about. If proof were needed on that point, one has only to reflect on the broadband debacle,” he added.
Gannon continued: “While previous plans and initiatives made small dollops of progress there is still a substantive unfulfilled infrastructure need. If small business is to compete effectively it needs to be able to use technology as easily as big business does, which is where the provision of local area services centres may have a role.
“In finalising the NDP, Government has to plan ahead both for robust infrastructure — that will enable businesses of all sizes to deploy technology and enable people anywhere to be productive — and for earlier and more comprehensive investment in IT skills provision that will lead to more educated skilled people ready to make productive use of IT for a greater general benefit to our companies and to the national economy,” Gannon said.
By John Kennedy