"Ireland is now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. We have over two million people at work and we are heading for full employment. The rate of unemployment is 6.1 per cent - a far cry from the high of over 15 per cent that followed the economic crash. Prospects for the immediate future are also positive with the economy projected to grow by 3.5 per cent in 2018.

It is critical that individuals and enterprises are encouraged, and supported, to take advantage of digitisation.

"However, Brexit and other global developments have underlined the need for us to remain vigilant to changing economic circumstances and to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges that continue to emerge. Digitisation is one such opportunity that we must enthusiastically embrace.

"The internet and digital technologies are transforming every facet of our lives. As well as the difference it makes to us as citizens, digitisation provides huge economic opportunities. It is also altering the structure of long-established business models and challenging our traditional approaches to enterprise development.

"For a progressive, modern economy such as Ireland’s, it is critical that individuals and enterprises are encouraged and supported to take advantage of digitisation.

"The EU digital single market strategy has the goal of adapting our current single market rules to reflect the realities of a 21st-century digital environment. The strategy is made up of 16 initiatives that support three key pillars:

 
  • Simplifying access to digitisation for consumers and business,
  • Shaping the environment for digital networks and services to flourish, and
  • Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.
 

"Ireland has long been recognised as a digital front runner within the EU and I am firmly of the view that Ireland has a key role to play in developing a stronger and more coherent EU digital single market that will boost jobs and economic growth, open new opportunities for our SMEs and ensure our global competitiveness.

"With success in the digital age comes an increase in data. There are understandable concerns that this data is retained safely and used responsibly.

As a government, we fully understand this and have a data protection regime that is the best in Europe.

"Since 2014 alone, there has been a six-fold increase in the budget for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, allowing it to perform to the highest international standards.

"Further digitisation also increases the demand for new skills. The adequacy and availability of digital skills and high-level ICT skills in enterprises, and the capability of entrepreneurs and SMEs across all sectors of the economy to exploit digital technologies is paramount. The government is refining the education and training system so it continues to identify, develop and activate the mix of skills needed.

"It is important for the business community to be proactive in embracing the opportunities of the continuous advances in digital technology, while clearly understanding both the positive impacts and challenges that they face.

"It’s an exciting time for Irish enterprise."