Archive for February, 2006
A while back I was asked four questions by a journalist for a story on PC Penetration and Internet Access. Below are the questions and my answers to them. I think some of these answers were in the Indo though they were edited down. The below answers are a bit of a rant
1. Despite the Government’s best efforts to project Ireland’s image as the Silicon Valley of Europe, PC penetration in Ireland stands at only 42pc compared with Sweden 56pc and the US at 82pc. What efforts should the Irish Government, Irish businesses and Irish citizens make to boost PC penetration?
In every other developed nation a PC is a multi-use product. It is there for doing administrative tasks, entertainment and most importantly communicating. What is the point of buying a PC in Ireland if all it becomes is an expensive word processor or aid to doing your accounts?
With the likes of broadband, PCs are used for tuning into radio and TV stations from all over the world, for talking to people in America or China using VOIP, for updating blogs, for downloading software that will make you do your work more efficiently, for connecting to the office from home and accessing all your documents and working on them over the Net. Why buy a sports car when you’re restricted to winding down the windows in your drive because the normal roads are too narrow to drive down or the nice and wide toll roads cost more per year to use than the car? That’s what Irish people have to deal with. Large unavailability of broadband and dialup rates prohibitively expensive.
It isn’t like Irish people are luddites or are afraid of technology. We don’t fear the beige or black boxes under the desk. In Ireland X-Box and Playstation ownership per head of population is one of the highest in the world. We love our mobiles and are addicted to texting. We’d love our computers too and use them a lot more if we could make full use of them but we can’t because of connectivity.
The government needs to make Internet Access affordable and available so that people can get value for money out of their pcs. At this stage too the Government should consider creating incentives for purchasing PCs but unless connectivity is also resolved they will only be used to gather dust.
Irish Businesses should train all staff on PC usage and if possible encourage teleworking. They should also continue making noise about Internet costs and availability like both the Chambers of Commerce and ISME have been
2. At 37pc (according to ComReg’ most recent Trends Survey) Ireland’s internet penetration hasn’t increased in the past two years. In terms of broadband, Eurostat has claimed that Ireland has a penetration rate of 1.7pc compared with the European average of 12pc. What should/could be done to resolve this?
While broadband uptake is increasing, Internet usage is staying the same. This seems to suggest that we are not encouraging new people to use the Internet but merely converting dialup Internet users into broadband Internet users. This is quite worrying and would suggest that we are going to hit a brick wall soon where broadband uptake will just cease. We need to get more people using the net and this means making it useful for them, making it available to them and making it affordable.
I think we find ourselves in a chicken in an egg situation. The PC penetration rate is blamed for the low Internet access rate when it could actually be the other way around as I previously mentioned.
We need to make Internet access cheaper. IrelandOffline wants to see per minute dialup banned and replaced with flatrate dialup products. We want people to enjoy going online via dialup or broadband and the always-on, flatfee model that most broadband products offer is the way to go for dialup and broadband.
Remove the fear of unknown and potentially massive Internet bills and more people will go online and stay online and as a result will quickly start finding new potential uses for the Net that they didn’t know about before. Every Net user could potentially be an ambassador for the Internet and could be used to ecnourage other Irish people to go online.
All government services should be offered online. We have some good E-Government initiatives like the CAO website, the Motor Tax website and the Revenue website. There are 100s more services that could be offered to Irish Citizens. Online billing should also be the norm for any service and not just government services.
Companies could help here too by allowing personal online time for employees, encouraging them to become proficient at using the net which could encourage them to get the Internet at home.
3. How damaging could low PC and broadband penetration be for Ireland’s long term competitiveness?
We are being lapped when it comes to broadband usage and Internet usage. Already we are seeing a lot of customer service jobs being lost to countries like India. As technology advances and more and more services and jobs can be done via a net connection and a broadband connection we could see an exodus of other jobs going to cheaper countries. Wait until China comes online with a billion very educated people and who are highly skilled in computers and Internet usage. We still have the potential to restart our Knowledge Economy but if we leave it much later we’ll just be fighting for the scraps that China and India throw us.
4. Does a digital divide exist in Ireland and if so in what areas? How can such a digital divide be bridged?
There’s a digital divide in the UK according to their own Government reports and they are one of the leading countries when it comes to PC usage, E-Government and broadband availability. We had a divide before the rest of the developed world sped away from us, now we have an ever-widening Digital Chasm.
The gap between the haves and the have nots when it comes to Internet Access is widening. Some 80% of Internet users in Ireland are still using dialup. The average cost of Internet access before line-rental is around €Â€36 according to ComReg.
180 hours of dialup costs Â€€26.99 a month and 3 euros an hour thereafter and the same ISP can now provide always-on 1mb broadband to their customers for €20 a month. So those who can get broadband are now finding it getting cheaper and cheaper and speeds are increasing but those unable to get it and lets be clear, some are guaranteed to never get it unless they move to an urban area, those consumers are stuck with dialup speeds which are awful and the cost of these products have remained unchanged for years. We have asked the regulator to look into a reduction in the costs of wholesale flatrate but they do not seem to think there is a need.
We need to lower the barriers to entry so that costs do not scare people away from the digital world and we also need to make the digital world available to all.
The model to look at for this is Estonia. A 2nd world country that in a few years became the shining light in Europe when it came to ICT usage.
See this powerpoint presentation from an Estonian consultant:
As of end of 2004:
* PC penetration 68%
* Internet penetration 54%
* 100% of schools connected
* 100% of public sector connected
* 80% of all businesses connected
* 729 PIAP (Public Internet Access Points)
If we want to be serious about having a knowledge economy then we need to build the infrastructure for one and it really isn’t rocket science at this stage. We’ve been spending billions on roads to deflect traffic away from the big cities yet 1000s move to these cities to work and set up business when they could be doing it from home. If we spent a fraction of what is spent on roads ever year to make teleworking a genuine possibility in this country then we could achieve the ambitions of those that dream with open eyes.
“the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible” – T. E. Lawrence
Kevin mentions another journo was at the Dublin riots. RoisÃn is added to an ever expanding list of people who can say “You weren’t there man, you don’t know what it was like, I was in ‘Nam mannnn” or some other such crap. I read the local rag known as the Evening Echo and one of their columnists happened to be there too. Does anyone feel that at this rate O’Connell street was busier than Christmas and packed full of journalists? I dunno but I’m getting slightly suspicious. See, I’d trust bloggers more at this stage and the photos and eyewitness testimony within a few short hours are proof for me. Reminds me of the stories about people claiming they were at Woodstock.
Lets go through all those photos that were taken and see can we spot any of these journos who now claim they were there.
The Government have are holding a public consultation about broadband demand. They’re basically framing the consultation as lack of demand being the reason why Ireland is one of the worst developed countries for broadband usage. Naturally the word bollox is in neon in my mind. The consultation closes tomorrow. I greatly encourage anyone that reads this to send in their views. Even if you have broadband already it is well worth telling the Govt it is not a demand problem it is a supply problem. We all know people that want broadband and cannot get it. Below is an email I sent to the IrelandOffline mailing list.
Minister Noel Dempsey and the Department of Communications have initiated a public consultation asking you, the consumer, for your opinions on broadband in Ireland. We in IrelandOffline greatly encourage you to view the consultation and send your thoughts to the Minister on this.
The Department are framing this consultation as if there isn’t enough demand for broadband and that is the reason Ireland has one of the worst records in the developed world for broadband usage. We think they are wholly incorrect and our own submission that we will send in next week will say this in no uncertain terms. If you are unable to get broadband and think the Government should be addressing this need then please reply to the consultation.
You can read the consultation here.
There are 33 questions and suggested answers/discussion points but you do not need to answer any or all of these. You can simply give your experience and demand change.
Your submissions should be marked ‘Broadband Demand’ and emailed to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources at firstname.lastname@example.org by 1st March 2006. Please also ask for them to confirm receipt of your submission.
Please send a copy of your submission to email@example.com too
The more I re-read the piece the more I think it was just written to give some love to Edelman and their new booklet on blogging. Where was Michele Neylon or Tom Raftery, where was Fergus Burns from Nooked or Eirepreneur James Corbett? I’m not bothered they didn’t mention the blog awards but I am bothered that they didn’t even do a little bit of research into business bloggers in Ireland. There are a few you know.
Mark Cahalane from Edelman was quoted extensively. Hi Mark, I’m guessing you’ll see this blog entry soon enough. Do you have your own blog Mark? Did the Business Post approach you guys or did you approach them for this story?
The SBP piece was inspid, mundane and about 2 years too late. In fact it reads like a template. “Insert name of country this is being published in” and bang it out all over the world. It was irrelevant to Ireland and a downright shame when it could have done a lot of the growing business blogging community.
and don’t worry we’re sure the scum of the earth, who are probably already drunk, will not fire things they pick up on the street.
Amazing how we had a field day when the English yobs tore up seats in Landsdowne so many years ago. Welcome to yob nation. Again the Gardai let violence happen first and then come in for a fight. Prevention anyone?
Some Flickr pics.
Dave advices on how to gently get people to blog. Simple and so right.
And that’s blogging, and that’s all it is.
Damn right. Well said Dave.
I emailed Hugh Macleod this week about Stormhoek providing some bottles of wine for the Blog Awards. Hugh’s probably up the walls and hasn’t got time to tell me piss off but why not try and get his attention by blogging about it? If you would like the opportunity to go home with a free bottle of Stormhoek wine after the blog awards then blog about it. (We’ll be charged corkage if we drink it in the hotel and I think it would be nice to enjoy it at home, nearer to where you make the magic happen on your blog.) So blog saying you’d like some wine. Link to this blog too.
Make sure to link to Hugh’s blog and the Stormhoek blog too and see will it get picked up and noticed by Hugh. This is a way is an experiment in blog power. I’m not going to email Hugh again as I think it impolite but I also want to see will all these blogs get his attention. The pre awards tech event almost fits nicely into his geek dinner idea.
So go on, do that thing you do and some of you do so well. Blog.
Congrats to BifSniff for making Screenhead. Screenhead is part of the Gawker Media Empire so gets a lot of eyeballs, which is apt for the cartoon in question.
Paige contemplates the blogging life and how she is distracted by the blog awards nominees. Welcome to my world! Please visit Paige’s site and comment on her posts. Some great stuff there. Send her more traffic.
The Tech meetup going on before the Blog Awards is going really well. Good to see some of the bloggers with passions for certain projects are going to be presenting.
Malcolm Gladwell of Blink and Tipping Point fame is blogging. Go subscribe and buy his books. What a great segway …
Speaking of tipping points, I think blogging will reach its Tipping Point when Sliabh’s idea about a less serious counter to the blog Awards occurs. I really like the idea but I fear we’re too early with it yet. There’s some 1000 blogs or so that we can deem as Irish. When we get to 5000, then maybe we could do this.
I’m being called a monster in work because I had rainbow trout for work today and ate it all including the head and eyes. Pfffft. Pics are on the way.
Listed below are all the blogs that were in the long list for Best Photoblog. I’m challenging you, the reader of this blog, to visit 2-3 of the below photoblogs and spend some time going through them and pick out 2 favourite photos from the blogs you visited and blog about them and include the photos or a thumbnail of them in the post itself. Introduce your audience to them and give the wonderful photographic artists a boost in traffic. Also link back to this post so I can see who’s taken up the challenge.
EDIT: Due to a silly error with my HTML skills I seemed to comment out half the list. Proper list now displayed.
This is Diopter
Letter to America
North Atlantic Skyline
The Plastic Cat
I Like Cameras