The Government’s Smart Economy hoopla

A packed Government Press Room, full of suits slapping each other on the back on how wonderful they all are, interspersed with some people from the media. So 94 pages of words were released today in the form of a report called “Technology Actions to Support the Smart Economy”. Get it here.

Already we’re in PR overdrive with 300 jobs announced today and Minister Ryan saying they might even have been conservative with the 10s of 10,000s of jobs to be created around this. If we honestly counted all the numbers of jobs meant to be created there’d probably be about a million more than the population can sign up to. And these Jobs he stated, would include builders building offices for companies. Right, despite there 1000s of buildings in Dublin alone newly built or renovated and being idle. Straw, grasp.

We could all do without the bullshit and inflated job numbers. That we are addressing digital issues is great, let’s do that without point scoring or headline grabbing. We need to move from dying manufacturing to an economy where we process and create digital goods.

So what was the announced?

The Exemplar Smart Communications Network
A new high speed next generation network. They actually said it was an NGN. In actuality it’s no more than a test track for networking technologies. Ryan makes it sound like this will allow Ireland to have digital hubs everywhere and suggests it’ll be great for industry. I don’t see how as this is not a network going around the country, it’s not even going from point A to B, it reads like it’s just going to be a test network in a college. Pages and pages of guff talking about this. And then could and would are brought in. There are no definites, the report just says the tech from the test network could be used on Government networks. it could be expanded into population centres. How exactly when the Government said they’re not investing in NGN?

Data Centres that are green and cloud computing
The report then goes on to tell us that the future ins in cloud computing Web 3.0 (semantic web) and virtualisation. Handy that the DCENR official that was in charge of this said Microsoft had a very heavy influence in putting this together. Microsoft get a few pages of praise on their new datacentre in Ireland as do CIX who helped campaign for the Green Party in the local and European elections (see them in the Green Party election ad). There’s talk about some green data centre standard too. Just talk mind.

International Content Services Centre
Now this is where it gets murky. They want to set up the equivalent of the IFSC but for content. I don’t think they know exactly how that works. Store your content in Ireland and have people work on it. They mentioned there are issues with copyright though. Really? No! Dublin based too. One would think with a country where every inch is covered by broadband according to the Minister, that geography don’t get in the way of digital. Lawyers and IP experts were mentioned a lot. It really felt like Ireland will be digital shylocks or debt collectors with such a Government policy of supporting DRM. From the report

Offices of legal firms with particular specialisation in global digital right management and intellectual property.

If done right, we can make the Pirate Bay and the movie companies become best buds.

Yet, here we go again. Where’s the API for Government data? Where’s the access to the vast RTE archive with good licensing deals for outside companies to make something new with this material? That’s real life data right there, not wishes and this apparently was not considered by the brain trust who put this report together.

Smart Electrical Grid
Not my area, no commentary. Smart grid = efficient grid, surely that should always be the aim. If you think about it, this is merely an upgrade anyway as progress marches forward, yet here it’s a big thing. The ESB upgrade their network and use the tech that’s being used elsewhere.

Traffic Flow
Traffic management systems. Uhm. Pie in the sky stuff about consumers routed around congestion spots.

Smart Bay
A research project on Galway Bay. Ok…

This whole initiative is manipulation of numbers and ideas. There’s a long list of people in public and private industry who put this report together. I hope they’re happy that they got their agendas in while making it sound like this is meant to be good for Ireland. The usual “people talk this stuff down to much” was uttered. Stop lying to us and we’ll talk up the good stuff.

John’s take.

15 Responses to “The Government’s Smart Economy hoopla”

  1. Paraic Hegarty says:

    I can’t fault your analysis. Today smacked of a response to the equally-hyped Fine Gael proposals. This is a shame, as there’s an urgent need to encourage indigenous industry. I wish that Ireland would swap the prioritisation of FDI and indigenous industry but I won’t hold my breath.

    Undoubtedly, manufacturing in Ireland is dying. On the other hand, there is a strong future for companies who invent and design items in Ireland for manufacture in low-cost locations. They’re not big companies, but they offer real knowledge economy jobs and keep profits here.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for that. At last, a sane response to all that “Shmart” bog cotton. As if saying “Shmart this…” and “Schmart that…” over and over is enough. Add this fantasy stuff to the reality of broadband in this country and it makes you realise the folks dreaming this up must be on the wrong drugs.

  3. I heard Eamonn Ryan on the radio and he seemed to be saying something like blahblahwafflewafflesmart

    But I couldn’t quite make it out.

  4. Ross Duggan says:

    From what little I understand of it, “Smart Grid” electricity could be seriously good stuff for accurate numbers on technology in households.

    Good (and by good I mean interesting) article on it from The Economist about it here:

  5. Only so many people are ‘smart’ and some of these are good at tech and at selling BUT most consumer items are low tech; and may have some high tech alright going fast forward. Probably smart clothing or that kind of thing.

    Ireland is trying to fool itself that we can have a ‘smart’ economy. We have poor infrastructure; poor maths teaching; poor business teaching; we don’t respect sales people enough like they do in the States. The indigenous pioneers in high tech are there despite the system.

    What do we do about the 100s of thousands of unemployed. ‘Smart Economy’ companies will not solve that. We still need low skill factories and stop fooling ourselves. Singapore can marry low and high tech quite well. Let’s analyse a country that can do that and maybe learn something and be practical. Abolishing the minimum wage might be a start and welcoming McCarthyites is a start.

  6. Neil Leyden says:

    Hi Damian,

    Just in relation to your comments above re: the Smart Economy. I introduced the concept of the International Content Services Centre 6 months ago when I wrote the following article for Enterprise Ireland’s “Technology Ireland” magazine.

    The article was picked up by government and I’ve been involved with developing it ever since – right up to the announcement yesterday. The concept came about from the frustration I had in my own work introducing European TV and Film-makers to the opportunities of digital distribution. The problem was that none of them had the rights to sell their content on Video On Demand platforms because in order to finance their films (or TV programmes) they’d given up those rights on a territory by territory basis. Thus rendering digital distribution difficult or more often then not, impossible. So when there is a bottleneck in access for content, you get piracy. So these film-makers are losing every which way – no revenue from VOD on one hand and piracy on the other. The main thrust of the ICSC concept is to create a “Clearing House” for those rights to allow existing TV and Film-makers to clear those rights and allow for the free flow of their content and provide them with new revenue streams in a climate where broadcasters and film funds are being reduced and advertising is disappearing.

    Your point about the RTE archive is well made – and that is one opportunity that was identified early on. But RTE’s archive is saddled with numerous rights issues that need to be cleared – so it may well be one of the first to benefit from the initiative – and yes, then we can have “outside companies to make something new with this material” . But the ICSC is first and foremost an international play and there is huge opportunity to interest large international content players to base their IP here.

    This has been a brave move by government and there is still a lot of work to be done, which I won’t argue. But we need to be positive here as it is a huge opportunity. There was incredibly negative and skeptical reaction initially to the IFSC concept in 1988 – the model upon which I’m basing the ICSC. However, it is worth noting the following:

    – By1994, the IFSC was contributing almost 20% of the corporation tax take in Ireland.
    – The IFSC now has 20,000 + employees contributing €271 million value to the exchequer per annum
    – Financial services by 2006 contributed 9.9% to Irish GDP
    – Financial services makes up 28% of Ireland’s exports as of 2007.
    – Globally, by 2007 the IFSC was responsible for 0.4% of total worldwide exports which is staggering.

    We can replicate that success with the new currency of the 21st century – content. There is further detail on the ICSC concept on my blog at:

  7. Simon McGarr says:


    What would a clearing house for already contractually settled rights do?

  8. Neil Leyden says:

    Hi Simon,

    The opportunity in FIlm & TV is that the contractual rights are often unclear or simply not being exploited. Some contracts preceded the internet and aren’t being exploited for various reasons e.g. RTE archive. Some broadcasters/content owners have the internet rights but are simply not exploiting them because they don’t perceive the opportunity or do not have a workable platform. Again, these are all opportunities for the proposed ICSC. Then going forward the ICSC could set the template for the exploitation of content rights across the internet globally in a fair and equitable way. As the web continues to do what it does best – cut out the middleman – the ICSC can bring the consumer and the content provider closer – ensuring quality of service and a sustainable financial model.

  9. Shane says:

    Hi Damien
    God your blog style is so last-century, heavy on cyber noise low on intellegent analysis.

    Writing this from Edinburgh and have lived out of Ireland for the past 12 years. I had almost given up on any Government Smart approach until I read this Report. Not sure if you have read it or if you have boy are you slow on the uptake.

    Take the Exemplar. I know this business . Intune is leading the world and the Government sees this as an opportunity. Propably high-risk but very smart approach. Industry and other countries are surprised at such a Government play. It allows the link of comms and electric grid interaction in a dynamic way. What a brilliant approach.

    There are other really good initiatives which you dismiss.

    Believe you me this is the most promosing development from Ireland in ICT strategy in the past 20 years. I guarantee that a number of MNI will line up to come on board.

    Not sure what your speciality is if anything but its a shame that you sneer at this very refreshing report. Read it and lets blob.

  10. If you’re going to give about my blogging style Shane then perhaps you should yourself learn the basics of grammar and spelling.

  11. Shane says:

    Hi Damien, appreciate your comments on my grammar and spelling. However, its a pity you didn’t engage in any of my points. Shane.

  12. […] gains. The same jaded line is used year in year out. I’m sure they’ll mention the vapourware plan to “digital leapfrog” the world. Frogs thrive in stagnant […]

  13. Murray Mitchell says:

    I have been out of the country for 6 weeks, and came back to this as one of the first headlines.

    What a shame, but predictable, that the winners of this ‘Smart Economy’ initiatives are both technology proposals, that are already growing within the sector.

    Running your economy in a smart way does not mean jumping on every technology bandwagon that comes along. Yes, Ireland has technology, and an educated workforce to supply these things, but the current crop of government and business initiatives are leading us down the one horse solution that led to the property bubble. Have we not learned anything from the building boom, and the DELL fiasco?

    Diversification is a vital part of a thriving economy. Technology yes, but its not the only solution. What about agriculture? Ireland is ideally placed to be a centre for organic production, what steps are the government taking for Ireland to be a leading force in this expanding industry?

    In today’s ‘free trade’ world it is vitally important that governments encourage development in all sectors of the economy. It appears that Ireland’s political elite do nothing more than party late into the night and spout forth the latest buzz words in the hope that someone with intelligence and common sense will act.

    Running to the Americans in the hope they will dig us out again with a nice inward investment is not going to happen. The time has come to concentrate on the small business models, these will produce the most sustainable growth prospects for Ireland.

  14. […] – in the report on Technology Actions to Support the Smart Economy (available as .doc) (Damien Mulley’s reaction to the press conference remains worth quoting), as an International Innovation Services Centre in the 2010 report of the […]