Chairman, National Broadband Ireland
Ireland is a small country that has played an outsized leadership role over the past 50 years. But with global economic pressures and fast-moving digital transformation sweeping in, there’s an urgency to what it needs to focus on.
Every so often, we must take stock of the performance of ‘Ireland Inc.’ What have we achieved? What did we fail at? What should be next? Based on over 30 years of creating and leading businesses, I believe Ireland needs to do the following five things to increase its competitiveness.
First, we must build on the strong foundation we’ve created as a market with a hardworking, educated population and a high-quality education and healthcare system.
Second, Ireland needs a plan to address the fact that, at present, one-third of the Irish economy is made up of money that is just passing through the country. We need a plan to keep more of this capital here.
This is a complex challenge, but solving this issue starts with focusing on attracting long-term capital for critical projects and launching efforts to ensure Ireland owns more of its intellectual property — across business, software and entertainment.
To grow as a nation, we need to create jobs where people live.
Connecting the country
Third, we must decentralise opportunity. For too long, rural areas around the globe have been left behind in terms of economic opportunity. Ireland is no different.
Urban areas have an incredible advantage, whereas many rural areas have been left underserved, creating knock-on issues that limit our potential. To grow as a nation, we need to create jobs where people live. We need, through technology, to create new companies, grow existing businesses and attract employment remotely from global corporations.
Fourth, and this point is connected to the previous point, Ireland must finish its plan to make high-speed broadband available to every man, woman and child in the country through its National Broadband Plan. As chairman of NBI, I obviously have a vested interest in making this happen. But as an Irish citizen living in rural Ireland, my connection and commitment to this venture isn’t just a matter of business.
Finally, Ireland needs to be an active participant in setting the tech rules and regulations for internet 3.0 and 4.0.
I’ve been blessed to spend 30 years in the technology, media and telecommunication industries. I’ve seen a lot of change — but it’s nothing compared to what’s about to happen.
We have new, critical opportunities to further strengthen Ireland’s economy and promote greater opportunity. The time to act is now.