30 September 2022
Good afternoon to you all.
It is a pleasure to be back in Trinity College Dublin where I studied nearly 31 years ago.
I’d like to begin by thanking Ibec for organising this important and stimulating event on a topic of great importance to Ireland and Europe.
I would also like to warmly welcome Executive Vice President Vestager to Ireland. I know the Executive Vice President has a very busy schedule of engagements today including meetings with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Minister for Finance, and I hope it will be a productive visit.
I would like to use this opportunity to outline Ireland’s approach to digital in the following areas:
Firstly – the necessity and urgency of digital transformation; secondly, Ireland’s help for businesses to digitalise; and thirdly, Ireland’s position in relation to the regulatory landscape in Europe on digital.
I think everyone in this room will agree, digital transformation offers a tremendous number of opportunities to improve our lives. Some of those improvements are incremental, while others are fundamental and structural changes to the way we approach problems.
Embracing digital transformation and the potential offered by new technologies is vital as we work to bolster the overall productivity, competitiveness, and future sustainability of our enterprise base.
The continued adoption and adaption of these technologies will also help to maintain an innovative and resilient enterprise base. This is essential as we work to ensure the delivery of high-quality jobs and employment opportunities for people right across the country.
Ireland’s approach to digitalisation
Ireland is a leading country at the very heart of European and global digital developments.
We are already well-connected globally and play an important role in digital regulation across Europe. We also enjoy the presence of many of the world’s leading technology companies.
Our National Digital Strategy sets out Ireland’s approach to digitalisation with a clear framework for how we, as a country, can embrace the opportunities offered by digital technologies and futureproof our economy for the years ahead.
It places a strong emphasis on balance, inclusiveness, security and safety, underpinned by a coherent governance structure.
The Strategy is aligned with the EU Digital Decade objectives with a focus on:
- the digital transformation of business,
- digital infrastructure,
- skills, and
- the digitalisation of public services.
The “digital transformation of business” dimension of the strategy sets out our determination to help businesses, and in particular our small and medium enterprises, as they look towards their own digital transition.
In that respect, we are already in a strong position when it comes to digitalisation. Ireland is currently ranked the fifth most advanced digital economy in the EU, and we are determined to maintain our position as a digital front-runner in Europe.
Digital Transition Fund
To help enterprises to start and continue their digital transition, in June of this year, Government launched the Digital Transition Fund as part of Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan with funding provided by the EU under its Recovery and Resilience Facility.
This funding will support businesses in Ireland at all different stages of digitalisation. From getting early-stage advice on developing an online to helping to fund cutting edge digital innovation or facilitate exporting to new markets, this Funding is will assist companies in staying competitive, resilient, and productive.
This week, under Budget 2023, the Government allocated a further €6 million to the Digital Transition Fund.
This is in addition to the digital training scheme for SMEs called “You’re the Business” which has been launched in partnership between Google, Enterprise Ireland, and the Local Enterprise Offices with their network of 31 offices across the country.
Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum
In driving the digitalisation of Ireland’s enterprise base, Government established the Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum to bring together representatives of business, large and small, to help advise and guide Government as we work towards greater digitalisation.
I am pleased that Ibec is represented on the Forum to make your perspectives and concerns known and inform the work of the Forum.
In my new role, I look forward to hearing the insights of business on how best we can maintain our momentum in digital and businesses are empowered to embrace the opportunities it presents.
In November we will host the Digital Ireland Conference in Dublin Castle, the first in a series of digital focused events.
The Conference will explore Ireland’s unique offering as a digital-front runner in Europe and how Ireland can maximise its strong digital track record, through the presence of leading global tech companies, innovative start-ups and related regulatory requirements. This is an opportunity to hear from business and regulators about upcoming developments in the digital economy and I look forward to seeing many of you there.
European Digital Innovation Hubs
Executive Vice President, we will continue to work with Europe to promote digitalisation and to that end, Ireland has joined the network of European Digital Innovation Hubs.
These Hubs are a joint initiative between the European Commission and Member States to establish a network of digitalisation “one stop shops” to enable enterprise and the public service to benefit from digital opportunities. Through training, financial advice and experimentation enterprises will be supported through their digital transition and transformation.
I’d like to take a moment to focus on AI as a technology, in particular.
Last summer the Government launched Ireland’s National AI Strategy: AI – Here for Good and our roadmap for how we can leverage the potential of AI to unlock increased productivity, to address societal challenges, and to enhance the delivery of our public services.
In May, Dr Patricia Scanlon was appointed as Ireland’s first AI Ambassador. Dr Scanlon will lead a national conversation around AI, emphasising the importance of an ethical approach in its adoption and use.
I had the pleasure of meeting Patricia earlier this week and I am confident that she will be successful in her work to demystify AI and promote the positive impacts it can have on areas like health, agriculture, transport and education.
Another key element of Patricia’s role will be engagement with young people. To that end, a National Youth Assembly on AI is being convened on October 12th. There young people will debate and discuss AI and we can better understand their attitudes and awareness of this technology, as well as to promote careers in the field.
EU Digital Regulation
The last twelve months have seen incredibly significant developments to digital regulation in Europe.
It is great news that the Digital Markets Act is over the line and that the Digital Services Act will be too very soon. I commend Vice President on her commitment to this.
In Ireland we’ve already turned our attention to what we need to do so that our Regulators are ready in time.
Our National Digital Strategy speaks of the importance of a well-resourced and effective regulatory framework for the future of digital services.
As my Department works over the coming months on equipping and establishing the authorities to implement the Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act in Ireland, we are committed to meeting those objectives.
Digitalisation, along with climate action, will transform our economy and society in Ireland, across the EU and more globally.
We are building the skills and regulatory framework needed to ensure our continued success into the future.
The stage is now set for the next stage of digitalisation in Ireland and Europe
Preparing ourselves for tomorrow’s economy and society means seizing the opportunities presented by digital technologies today.
This will enable us to chart a course toward a shared future that is open, collaborative and responsive to new developments on the horizon.