Over the past year, the Irish Government has focused its attention on putting in place key components to support the development of a digitally enabled smart economy. If implemented, these plans have the potential to actually deliver the digital dividend of jobs, foreign direct investment and economic recovery.
So the fundamental challenge is how to move the smart economy plan onto a development footing and how to get stakeholder and society buy-in for the plan and to send a positive message out to the global players in the eco-knowledge economy.
Our existing critical mass of knowledge-based industries, combined with our industry and Government partnership model, means we are in a unique position to become a world leader in the digitally-powered, knowledge-based economy of the future.
The creation of a National Digital Development Plan 2010–2021 will send a message to the world of Ireland’s digital credentials, and offer wider society a clear vision of a strong future for them and for future generations. It will send a strong message to our fellow Europeans that Ireland is ready to lead a strong Digital Europe into the future.
Key actions of the National Digital Development Plan
What is required is a National Digital Development Plan that has priority within the Government capital-investment programme, and costed development programmes with timelines and delivery dates.
1. Follow up on the visionary €150m ‘Smart Schools = Smart Economy’ computers-for-schools plan by developing a national ‘education cloud’ with audio and video technologies supporting a unified syllabus.
2. Press ahead with the urgent appointment of a Government CIO to co-ordinate state investment in ICT, access to state infrastructure, better state digital services through e-government and the progression of Ireland’s digital society.
3. Ensure a key minimal standard of broadband connectivity for every citizen, home and business in Ireland.
4. Create a state-funded ‘Irish cloud university’ focusing on innovation and sustainability to connect academics, students, industry and the Irish diaspora, incorporating existing programmes and education infrastructure.
5. Set a target, budget and timeline for 100pc of Irish schools – primary and post-primary – to be equipped with 100Mbps broadband by 2012.
6. Ensure the education sector embraces the use of this infrastructure as part of the graded education syllabus.
7. Ensure that a standard of connectivity and equipment is achieved across all primary and post-primary schools by 2012 and consistently upgraded, and that every teacher receives adequate ICT training.
8. Reset the syllabus to prepare students for the realities of the 21st-century workplace. Ensure that maths and science standards at Junior and Leaving Cert level are fit for purpose. Introduce foreign languages into the primary-level syllabus. Create a syllabus that includes entrepreneurship in all second-level business courses.
9. Co-ordinate national investment and industry investment in augmented fibre infrastructure, DSL and alternative wireless technologies such as WiMax and Long Term Evolution, offering a basic standard of connectivity by 2012 with a progressive target for 2021.
10. Ensure Ireland is well placed to profit from the digital dividend by ensuring that Ireland meets the EU’s 2012 target of switching from analogue to digital TV and that 2G cellular spectrum is re-farmed.
11. Ensure clear and focused regulation of the Irish telecoms market to enable speedier deployment of next-generation access infrastructure.
12. Facilitate the creation of programmes to support the development and commercialisation of low-carbon technologies, products and services.
13. Continue and augment investment in science, research and development.
14. Provide high-potential start-ups with easy-to-access early stage finance and overseas market intelligence. Provide support for industry groups that are supporting these start-ups.
15. Ensure central Government becomes an early adopter and leader in using new and existing technology – this will assist when developing policy and understanding the benefits of ICT.
The leaders of some of Ireland’s top technology and telecoms companies came together in a partnership for action on the digital economy. They shared their views on the core issues and components of a vibrant digital economy.
The aim was to work in a spirit of partnership with industry, Government, business, media and all stakeholders to add impetus to the common effort that will be needed to succeed in transforming Ireland into a world-leading economy.
Chris Clark, CEO, BT Ireland
Headquartered in Belfast and Dublin, BT operates across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as an all-island business, employing close to 3,000 people.
Charles Butterworth, CEO, Vodafone Ireland
The country’s largest mobile operator and second largest fixed line provider now employs approximately 1,200 people in the Republic.
Paul Rellis, general manager, Microsoft Ireland
Microsoft Ireland has grown to encompass four distinct operations at its campus in Dublin plus a US$500m data centre in west Dublin. It employs 1,200 full-time people plus 700 contract workers.
Jim O’Hara, general manager, Intel Ireland
Global chip giant Intel employs over 4,000 people, split between its two locations in Leixlip, Co Kildare and Shannon, Co Clare.
Danuta Gray, chief executive, Telefónica O2 Ireland
Headquartered in the Dublin Docklands, with its Customer Care Centre based in Limerick, O2 currently employs over 1,300 people in Ireland.
Dermot O’Connell, general manager, Dell Ireland
Dell first arrived in Ireland in 1991, and currently operates two facilities here, split between Raheen in Limerick and Cherrywood in Dublin.
Mark Kellett, chief executive, Magnet Networks
Magnet has 40 unbundled exchanges nationwide and also one of the largest fibre network in Ireland and the UK, offering Ireland’s fastest broadband service at 50Mbps.
Martin Murphy, general manager, HP Ireland
Global technology corporation Hewlett-Packard (HP) employs some 4,000 people in Ireland at its bases in Dublin, Kildare, Galway and Belfast.
Maurice Mortell, chief executive, Data Electronics
Data Electronics is Ireland’s longest-serving, indigenous data centre provider. The company’s workforce will double from 55 employees today to over 100 employees in the coming years.
Kim Majerus, managing director, Cisco in Ireland
Cisco has established itself as a global industry leader in digital communications and currently employs 210 people between its Galway and Dublin locations.
By John Kennedy
www.digital21.ie – Digital 21 is a campaign to highlight the imperative of creating an action programme to secure the digital infrastructure and services upon which the success of the economy depends.