Returning to the concept of the intellectual infrastructure, why does this make sense? Reason 1: We love to communicate. We have more than one mobile phone per person. Reason 2: We love to publish. Ireland has produced four Nobel Prize winners for literature. Reason 3: We have global creative brands. U2, Riverdance, Guinness (the latter more a catalyst of creativity). Reason 4: We love litigation and should be good at protecting our IPR. Reason 5: Property trends will change. Why should property ownership always imply buildings?
So what would the Republic of Wireland team be if it was playing in an IPR World Cup? In attack we would have Beckett, Joyce, Bono and Roddy Doyle on the wing. In defense we would have Saint Finian of Moville in County Donegal, Saint Columba and High King Dermott. Who? In 561ad these were the protagonists in the first recorded incidence of IPR litigation IN THE WORLD! Hundreds of years before Gutenberg, an Irish dispute over ownership of a handwritten prayer book led to 2,000 casualties in the battle of Cooldrevny. Proving that Irish people are willing to lay their life on the line to protect their intellectual property. We need to capture that spirit of commitment again now!
So no problem with creativity and commitment, what about communication? No problem there either. The Irish communicate because we have an inherent and insatiable desire to do so. On the other hand, a little bit further north than Moville, we find the Finns who deployed technology not because they particularly wanted to communicate, but because they had to. Finland is a large country with a relatively small population. Cities are separated by long distances and by an inhospitable landscape. The telephone became essential early on, as did cars. It was logical that the mobile phone would take off. Hence the rise of Nokia, Finland’s predominant global brand. But the Finns are not natural communicators, at least not outside their own country, and are poor at exporting their ideas. By comparison the Irish have been global wanderers, flesh pressers and craicmeisters for years in the offline world. So online there should be no stopping us.
We must start to mobilise the troops now, the Republic of Wireland team backed up by every citizen who has a role to play either in the creation or consumption of digital services. We need to think about what we will do with ubiquitous broadband if we get it and how to do without it if we don’t. In the connected world, an unwired society would be like an island but we have always been an island and it hasn’t stopped us in the past. The digital revolution needed in Ireland is not a technological one but one that mobilises the wealth, creativity and determination that exists in this country. One that doesn’t wait for the drawbridge to be lowered but instead storms the walls to secure the lifeline we need to be a real player in the global networked economy.