Speaking on Monday morning at the launch of Age Action Ireland’s new computer training facility in Lower Abbey Street Minister Rabbitte said “I have decided to increase the resources originally earmarked for this scheme. I believe in investing in what works. Research by my Department has shown that the investment we have made in similar schemes – working with the community & voluntary sector to deliver the training – delivers effectively on our objectives.
“This scheme will enable thousands of people throughout Ireland – people otherwise likely to be left behind in the knowledge society – to acquire the basic practical know-how to improve their digital skills. In particular this will help older people, those with disabilities, the unemployed and other key target groups. They will learn to use the internet, email and how to conduct simple on-line transactions.
“Previous schemes show that learning such basic skills helps people in many ways – giving them new communication options, new opportunities to save money, as well as better access to a wide range of on-line services. We have also seen how such new skills and the opportunities that result from them improve people’s confidence and wellbeing. More widespread participation in the knowledge society is a win-win outcome – with advantages for citizens, government and the wider economy.”
There are a range of initiatives operating in Ireland which are helping to achieve more widespread digital inclusion. Amongst these are basic skills measures such as Age Action Ireland’s Getting Started programme, the Log on Learninitiative, BT’s Connected communities initiative, Irish Internet Association’s (IIA) Digitise the Nation as well as other initiatives currently being developed. Some approaches focus on particular sectors (e.g. the work being done by ENCLUDE to transform the operations of charity organisations). Digital inclusion is also relevant to small businesses. A number of initiatives are currently focusing on developing the potential of SMEs to improve their on-line capabilities. These include the Getting Irish Business On-line initiative from Google as well as a pilot initiative – WebActivate.
Details of the scheme are available at www.eInclusion.ie
Faster Broadband to More Places, Quicker! – Government convenes CEO Taskforce on High Speed Broadband Rollout
The Next Generational Broadband Taskforce (NGBT) comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. Its purpose is to discuss how best to deliver the optimal policy environment and to identify a roadmap for the speedy delivery of high speed broadband across Ireland. The Minsters are also keen to accelerate private sector investment in this area of critical importance to economic and social development.
Outlining the aims of the group, Minister Rabbitte said “Delivery of high speed broadband to all parts of Ireland is an essential Government priority. It will underpin economic growth and recovery, as well as providing important dividends in terms of education, health and other social benefits. I am confident that we will see rapid progress. Industry is already investing heavily in this area in Ireland, and our aim is to accelerate this investment. We want to encourage companies to work collaboratively across the sector to maximise the roll out of Next Generation infrastructure without compromising the competition that is so vital for innovation. We also want tease out how the State can support industry delivery without cutting across their investment plans”.
The Taskforce will consider issues such as appropriate targets, investment plans, and the role of Government policy and actions in driving and facilitating investment.
Minister O’Dowd, who has responsibility in relation to the Government’s NewERA plan, said “delivery of high speed broadband throughout Ireland is a key commitment under the Government’s NewERA programme, and will contribute to maintaining jobs and economic recovery by creating the necessary infrastructure to support enterprise investment. The work of the Task force will critically inform how best to deliver on this important policy imperative”.
Both Ministers noted that under the Digital Agenda for Europe, the European Commission has set targets of 30mbps broadband to all citizens and 50% of citizens subscribing to 100mbps by 2020. It also commits to universal broadband provision by 2013. The Government funded National and Rural Broadband Schemes are already delivering on this latter objective. The Ministers emphasised that Government policy is now firmly focussed on the delivery of much faster broadband to all regions in Ireland.
A key focus of Ministers’ discussions with industry will be whether the 2020 targets can be delivered earlier, to develop an ambitious roadmap for high speed broadband in Ireland, and what measures can be collectively and individually taken to deliver on that roadmap.
It is intended that the Taskforce will conclude its work by March 2012.
List of Members of the Next Generational Broadband Task Force
Mr. Pat Rabbitte, TD, Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources
Mr. Fergus O’Dowd, TD, Minister of State
Ms. Dana Strong, UPC
Mr. Stephen Shurrock, O2
Mr. Paul Donovan, eircom
Mr. Colm Piercy, Digiweb
Mr. Graham Sutherland, BT
Mr. Jeroen Hoencamp, Vodafone
Mr. Robert Finnegan, “3”
Mr. John Shine, ESB
Mr. Sean Bolger, Imagine
Mr. Conal Henry, e|net
Mr. Aidan Dunning, Secretary General, DCENR
Ms. Katherine Licken, Assistant Secretary
He has asked public sector organisations to build stronger relationships with the Government’s job creation agency, Enterprise Ireland, to improve their procurement practices and get a better grasp of the indigenous enterprise landscape.
Enterprise Ireland is now working closely with targeted public contracting authorities nationally and at local government level where the agency has secured executive buy-in from procurement managers in boosting the participation of small businesses in tender opportunities.
The agency has already connected over 70 of its client firms with public bodies developing a number of programmes that will improve service delivery.
The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), for example, is developing a number of technology-led solutions which will help improve passenger experiences as they transit through terminals.
The DAA is engaging with a number of Enterprise Ireland high-potential technology firms as part of that process.
Meanwhile, a cluster of Enterprise Ireland clients are engaged around opportunities for the design, build and management of infrastructure supporting the ESB’s rollout of electric cars.
Minister O’Keeffe said it was vital that small Irish businesses were fully aware of public sector procurement opportunities.
‘It is important that public sector organisations develop relationships with Enterprise Ireland so that they have a strong knowledge of the indigenous enterprise landscape.
‘Public sector organisations should be aware of the economic impact their procurement spend can have on small Irish businesses and, in particular, the implications for job creation in local communities.
‘Irish firms themselves should be given every help to fully engage with the public procurement process so that they can pitch successfully for business opportunities,’ said Minister O’Keeffe.
The chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, Frank Ryan, said many of the agency’s client companies have innovative solutions that can bring value and efficiencies to public sector bodies.
‘We are delighted to work with contracting authorities that are taking positive actions in engaging with Irish small and medium-sized enterprises for increased tender participation.
‘Winning reference sites in Ireland is of great importance to our client companies, both in terms of the value of the contracts won and as they seek to internationalise their solutions for export growth.
‘We welcome the opportunities which these current engagements are giving and look forward to their conversion into business wins’, he said.
Ireland’s National Pension Reserve Fund [NPRF] invests $50 million in Venture Capital through Innovation Fund Ireland
The National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) today announces a $50 million investment in Polaris Venture Partners. The investment is being made through Innovation Fund Ireland, a Government initiative to attract leading international venture capital fund managers to Ireland.
Polaris is a leading US venture capital firm. The firm will be increasing its focus on Ireland and Europe, providing a local and active source of venture capital from a leading international investment firm. Polaris will also be working with the IDA, Ireland’s inward investment agency, to identify opportunities within its network to bring fast-growing venture-backed companies to Ireland as a point of entry into Europe.
As part of the announcement, Polaris has confirmed that it has chosen to open the company’s first Dogpatch Labs facility outside of the United States in Dublin in support of Innovation Fund Ireland. Dogpatch Labs typically house 30 to 50 entrepreneurs working on new technology and life science related businesses at early stages of development. Polaris has had significant success with its existing Dogpatch Labs facilities in San Francisco, Cambridge (Massachusetts) and New York, where there is a fresh intake of entrepreneurs and start-ups every six months. Polaris expects to have similar success in attracting high quality entrepreneurs from across Europe to Dogpatch Labs Dublin. For more information go to http://dogpatchlabs.com
Terry McGuire, Managing Partner Polaris, said: “Dogpatch Labs has been highly successful in establishing hubs of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. We are excited to be taking that model to Ireland, which has already attracted the likes of Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, and are hopeful that, in partnership with Innovation Fund Ireland, Dogpatch Dublin will emerge as a key hub for entrepreneurs across Europe.”
Speaking today, Paul Carty, Chairman of the NPRF said: “This investment, which forms part of our commitment to Innovation Fund Ireland, is a strong commercial opportunity for the NPRF and the establishment of a Dogpatch Labs in Dublin creates an important new catalyst for entrepreneurship in Ireland.”
About the NPRF
The National Pensions Reserve Fund was established in 2001 to meet as much as possible of the costs of Ireland’s social welfare and public service pensions from 2025 until at least 2055. The NPRF is controlled by the NPRF Commission, which has a statutory commercial investment mandate, and is currently invested globally across a diversified range of asset classes including quoted equities, bonds, property, private equity and commodities. The NPRF also has investments in Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks plc, made at the direction of the Minister for Finance in order to recapitalise these institutions. Recently it was announced that the NPRF will be required to contribute up to €10 billion to the EU-IMF programme of Financial Support for Ireland. Subsequently the NPRF Commission has reaffirmed its commitment of €125 million in total to Innovation Fund Ireland. The NPRF’s value at end September 2010 was €24.5 billion.
About Innovation Fund Ireland
Innovation Fund Ireland is a €500 million Irish Government initiative designed to attract leading international venture capital fund managers to Ireland.
Innovation Fund Ireland funding comprises three elements. The first is Exchequer funding of €125 million, which will be managed by Enterprise Ireland. The second allows the NPRF to invest a similar amount providing its commercial investment criteria are met. The balance will be raised privately by participating venture capital managers. For more information go to http://www.innovationfundireland.com
Polaris Venture Partners is a partnership of experienced investors, operating executives and entrepreneurs. The firm’s mission is to identify, invest in and partner with seed, early stage, and middle-market businesses with exceptional promise and help them grow into market-leading companies. Polaris invests in businesses across a number of markets including technology, digital media, consumer, enertech and life sciences. Polaris-backed successes in life sciences include: Adimab, Adnexus (sold to BMS), Advanced Inhalation Research (sold to Alkermes), Alimera (ALIM), Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY), Asthmatx (sold to Boston Scientific) Glycofi (sold to Merck), Momenta Pharmaceuticals (MNTA) and Ironwood (IRWD). Polaris-backed successes in technology and consumer include: Akamai Technologies (AKAM), Allaire, Art.com, Athlete’s Performance, Automattic (WordPress), e-Rewards, LogMeIn (LOGM), LegalZoom, LivingProof, MarkMonitor, Powersoft, Solidworks, TechTarget (TTGT) and Quantcast. For more on the firm, its mission and its portfolio companies: http://polarisventures.com.
About Dogpatch Labs
Dogpatch Labs was created by Polaris Venture Partners to connect entrepreneurs and help founders conceive and launch startups. Dogpatch Labs has three locations in Cambridge, MA, New York, NY and San Francisco, CA and will open its fourth location in Dublin, Ireland in the first quarter of 2011. Dogpatch labs offer desk space, bandwidth, coffee and lunch to aspiring entrepreneurs but are much more than physical spaces. The Labs collectively are a community of like minded entrepreneurs who share a spirit of “open source entrepreneurship,” the idea that, particularly at the very earliest of stages, we all benefit by fostering connection points between and amongst entrepreneurs and startups. Whether it is sharing space, sharing ideas, sharing referrals, networking, or just hanging out, the members all thrive on the flow of ideas, people and relationships. So, in addition to a workspace, they also use the lab frequently as a meeting place — for lunch talks, workshops, conferences, symposia etc. For more information go to http://dogpatchlabs.com
I have just posted a news item on our site in relation to the Broadcasting Bill 2008. This issue was brought to my attention and the attention of Fergal, IIA CEO, via various avenues so thanks to anyone who got in touch late last week.
The Broadcasting Bill 2008, if enacted as is, could create confusion and a possible loophole for an added tax on both consumers and business users of the internet. However, we hope to be corrected and that this is not the case! Please use the comments below to contribute. Check out our news item on the IIA site to get more details. We would like to ensure that those debating this issue are aware of this lack of clarity and clear it up now. I imagine the government would have a hard time justifying a licence fee on all devices capable of accessing the type of content described in the bill particularly considering the lack of availability of adequate broadband for many.
This grassroots campaign is about the positive aspects of economic activity that often receive little media attention, and the need to focus on solutions instead of the problems.
It is about setting a challenge to people to be innovative and creative.
The Irish Internet Association supports the Ideas Campaign in its efforts to identify ways of preserving and growing employment, stimulating new economic activity and creating business ideas.
The campaign wants ideas from business owners/executives, knowledge workers, entrepreneurs and academics. It also wants the ideas and involvement of anybody who is concerned about these important economic issues and their consequences, such as the employment prospects for their children.
All contributions received will be turned into an action plan and presented to government in April.
If you are a member of the IIA please let Roseanne Smith, Membership Manager, know about your contributions to the campaign so she may include your ideas in any future promotions of this great idea.
For more information on the Ideas Campaign, go to:
Chair of IIA Physical Infrastructure Working Group questions Government plans for national broadband
Keith Bohanna, chair of the Irish Internet Association Physical Infrastructure Working Group, questions the rationale behind the Government’s decision to roll out national broadband on the 3G wireless network, describing it as "divorced from reality". The IIA Physical Infrastructure Working Group aims to influence the development of a global class physical internet infrastructure for Ireland.
Bohanna continued in response to the Government’s announcement on Thursday 22nd January 2008, "Mobile internet dongles consistently deliver speeds which would be better described as an "internet connection" than "broadband". The Epitiro 2008 Irish Broadband study included among its recommendations: For end users that desire the best performance, fixed broadband, at its worst, is superior to any mobile broadband."
This is confirmed by the experience of normal Irish mobile internet users. A search of the popular Irish discussion forum Boards.ie contains a discussion which is 389 pages long and focused on the mostly negative experiences of Three mobile broadband dongle users.
This is not acceptable for businesses relying on the national broadband scheme to deliver information about their products to consumers in a variety of media. Current internet trends are for the consumption and production of large amounts of media in forms other than text – for example images and video. The development of these communications channels forms an integral part of the internet presence of businesses with their eye on international markets and an understanding of the modern consumer.
The Minister also declared that the National Broadband scheme would put Ireland "ahead of the rest of the world". In the May 2008 Ireland was in 23rd place in the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation broadband ranking Bohanna cites this as another example of the Government setting unrealistic targets.
In a briefing given by Forfás to the Physical Infrastructure Working Group’s contains further evidence to support the working group’s concerns about the attainability of the National Broadband scheme. The briefing included the following:
"Comparator European nations in the OECD (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and The Netherlands) have set ambitious targets and implementation plans to enable the services of the future using a mix of government spending, private investment, and public/private partnerships. In terms of broadband performance it is projected that these leading Western European countries will achieve the following minimum broadband services penetrations, by 2012:
- 50-70 percent of subscribers with speeds in the order of 24 Mbit/s widely available;
- an additional 15-20 percent of subscribers with speeds in the order of 38 Mbit/s; and,
- 10-20 percent of subscribers in these countries with access to 100 Mbit/s-1Gbit/s.
By the same year (2012) Three hope to enhance their service to offer a minimum speed of 2.3Mbit/s. And remember that even that minimum speed will fluctuate widely.
It is possible that our current budgetary position will not allow us to achieve 24Mbit/s on a widespread basis. It is possible that for businesses with dial up the Three dongle will give them a better service than the free market will deliver. Bohanna concludes by asking, "Why can’t it be possible to be honest about what this €223 million programme will actually deliver? Internet connectivity for email and web browsing, not a global standard business broadband service."
Communications Minister Eamon Ryan today announced the National Broadband Scheme, the Government scheme to deliver broadband services throughout the country. Following the conclusion of a competitive tendering process, the Minister has entered into a contract for the delivery of this scheme with ‘3’ (a Hutchinson Whampoa company).
Ireland currently has over 1.2 million subscribers to broadband. The National Broadband Scheme will provide the remaining 10% of our population, or approximately 33% of the area of the country, with broadband services (see attached map). Ireland will have 100% coverage by September 2010; half of the area under the scheme will be covered by the end of this year.
Investment of €223 million from a combination of Exchequer funds, EU co-financing and ‘3’ will create 170 direct jobs. Hundreds more will be protected and created as the availability of broadband increases the investment and enterprise in the targeted areas.
‘3’ will extend its network to provide mobile wireless broadband services into the NBS area. Initially, the service will have a minimum download speed of 1.2 mbps. At least, two upgrades of speeds are planned during the lifetime of the contract. These product upgrades will be carried out at no cost to the customer.
Announcing the scheme, Minister Ryan said, “For too long, rural Ireland has been without this essential service.
Today’s announcement is a boost for the rural economy. Now businesses throughout the country can have ready access to the national and international markets. Employment will be created and sustained. Quality of life will improve for rural residents and communities will be strengthened.
This contract represents real value for public money. I congratulate ‘3’ on winning this contract and look forward to them meeting the challenging, but achievable coverage targets.”
Robert Finnegan Chief Executive of 3 commented: “3 is delighted to have won the NBS tender – it’s great news for 3 and for rural Ireland. We’ll be rolling out our first class broadband network bringing internet services to thousands of homes and businesses across the country. Over five years we’ll be investing 223 million euros and creating around 170 new jobs giving Ireland’s economy a welcome boost. There has never been a more important time for people to get connected as Ireland strives to sharpen its competitiveness. 3 has already played an important part in bringing Ireland up to speed in the broadband league tables and we look forward to further strengthening 3’s market leading position with the most innovative and services and best value price plans available.”
Well if there’s one thing you can bank on our friends in the US of A it’s for an interesting turn of phrase. The IIA’s “acronymsake”, (that’s my really interesting turn of phrase!) the Internet Innovation Alliance, who are based in the US have been very concerned for some time now about the “exaflood”. As the video below puts it 1 exabyte of data if converted to DVD quality video would take 50,000 years to watch. Therefore the Internet Innovation Alliance predict that an exaflood is imminent. They are “a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations committed to more widespread usage and availability of broadband through wise policy decisions”. Other statistics included in this video make a compelling case for ensuring your voice is heard in relation to the Irish Government’s plan for Next Generation Broadband. We are all very aware that internet trends and their impacts cannot be confined to one country and similar growth should be expected and prepared for in Ireland’s knowledge economy. So please leave your comments below or read the views of the IIA’s Physical Infrastructure Working Group as outlined by Keith Bohanna, Chair and add your comments there. Getting involved in consultation like this is as important an aspect of democracy as voting. And anyway it’s not possible that you are too busy outside enjoying the sun…