The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, not least through the increased use of digital. Many more people work remotely, study online, and engage in online shopping and digital public services. As a result, yesterday, the Irish Government launched a new national digital strategy, Harnessing Digital – The Digital Ireland Framework, to drive and enable the digital transition across the Irish economy and society.
As Ireland emerges from the pandemic, the Government wants to capture and build upon the positive elements of this experience and build on Ireland’s success as the European Headquarters for many high-tech multinationals. This high-level framework sets out a pathway to support Ireland’s ambition to be a digital leader at the heart of European digital developments. It emphasises inclusiveness, security and safety, underpinned by strong governance and a well-resourced regulatory framework.
The Digital Ireland Framework will help maximise the well-being of Irish people and their businesses and fully realise many of the benefits of digital, including more flexible and remote working and new job opportunities; new markets and customers for businesses; and more.
Elements of the Plan
The new National Digital Strategy emphasises cyber security and commits to reviewing the National Cyber Security Strategy in 2022 to recognise progress made and respond effectively to an evolving landscape. This digital strategy aligns with both EU priorities, under the Digital Decade, and national priorities, under the 2021 Economic Recovery Plan and Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It also complements our work towards achieving Ireland’s climate targets, with our green and digital ambitions re-enforcing each other.
The Government will ensure these benefits are achieved by:
- making connectivity available to everyone, including through the National Broadband Plan.
- Remote Working Hubs and Broadband Connection Points.
- Having all Irish households and businesses covered by the Gigabit network no later than 2028.
- All populated areas are covered by 5G no later than 2030.
- Providing digital skills for all – from school to further and higher education.
- The target of increase the share of adults with at least basic digital skills to 80% by 2030.
- Ensuring widespread access and use of inclusive digital public services, with a target of 90%. of services to be consumed online by 2030.
- Helping small businesses benefit from digital opportunities.
- It provides grants and assistance, with a target of 90% of SMEs at basic digital intensity by 2030.
- 75% enterprise take-up in the cloud, AI and big data.
- Increased resources for the National Cyber Security Centre.
- Ensuring a modern and well-resourced regulatory framework.
In welcoming the strategy, the Taoiseach emphasised the importance of harnessing digitalisation gains for all, saying:
“We want to build on Ireland’s successes, with new job and business opportunities, more efficient and accessible government services, more flexible working, a better work-life balance, and better sustainability. “
Support of the Plan
In a press release, IBEC, the group representing Irish business, welcomes the Government’s new National Digital Strategy, stating that it is essential to ensure Ireland is at the forefront of a more sustainable, digital decade.
Erik O Donovan, Ibec’s Head of Digital Economy Policy, said: “A new strategic policy framework and related action plans are essential in coordinating, engaging and enabling everyone in further digital opportunities that can enhance lives and livelihoods across our economy.
“Ibec research indicates that four out of five Irish CEOs see being prepared for technological change as a top priority. Ireland is a recognised international digital hub, but this extends beyond the direct ‘tech’ sector into other areas such as life sciences, financial and professional services, and advanced manufacturing. We estimate that there were 240,000 employed in our ‘digitally intensive’ sectors in 2019. However, we cannot be complacent, the pandemic has accelerated the state and rate of digital transformation for us and our competitors. EU research shows that gaps and divides exist in our relative readiness to access and adopt existing and emerging digitally-enabled opportunities. We need this new framework and related action plans to engage businesses and citizens in responding to these challenges and opportunities.”
Look to the Future
With the launch of the digital strategy, we are setting ambitious targets for the next phase of digitalisation in Ireland to continue to reap the benefits offered by digital technologies. Putting out a clear plan for how communities across Ireland can be brought into the 21 century and provide quality jobs in local communities is something for all businesses to look forward to with eager anticipation.