Interveiw with Martin Casey

“There is a strong commitment from government to improve and develop world class e-Content services”

How would you define e-content in Ireland?

E-content definition in Ireland is the delivery of information to users through the internet. This is predominantly information based services where business and government provide information to the both external and internal users. Transactional services are beginning to come on stream but are not as common as one might think. Delivery of content though mobile devices is still very immature.

“Many of the successful Irish e-content providers are focusing on delivering local based services to the user”

What’s the status of e-content in Ireland?

It is clear that the internet is becoming the world’s most pervasive communications channel and has the capability to challenge all accepted forms of communication but this medium is still in its infancy. In the Irish context the use of the internet is still under developed and both business and government are grappling with its benefits, its practical uses and how to implement and use the medium to deliver value added services. If your to look at the penetration of the internet, approximately 650 000 or 46% of homes in Ireland have a home computer (June 2004) compared to a 582000 (42.2%) in 2003. The number of homes with internet connection has increased to 540 000, However just over 26% of the population have used the internet. If you contrast this with Ireland as a leader in ICT, 7 of the Top 10 ICT companies have a substantial base in Ireland, one third of all PC’s sold in Europe are manufactured in the country and Ireland is the largest exporter of software in the world. Turnover in the ICT sector was over €51 billion in 2001 with three of Ireland top exporters (Dell, Microsoft and Intel) accounting for 18% of total exports between them. In 2000, the ICT sector accounted for 11.6% of Ireland’s GDP, compared with an EU average of 5.1%.

Therefore there defiantly is a contradiction between Ireland ICT credentials and the penetration of ICT into the ordinary household and with this in mind e-Content is also still in its infancy. The principal providers of e-Content in Ireland are split between Business and Government. Businesses are providing typical eBusiness services, ecommerce and generic information based services. Government who are currently the most proactive are focused on delivering and providing informational and transactional services to the citizen. The majority of practical implementation of e-Content are in the majority purely informational based services with transaction services being less common.

Nevertheless there is a strong commitment from government to improve and develop world class e-Content services and these are starting to be launched but not at the frequency of other countries. Many of the successful Irish e-content providers are focusing on delivering local based services to the user.

Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in Ireland?

All areas of e-content are being developed but for the last few years Government have been the most proactive. Government was not as active during the technology boom and since the downturn there has been a remarkable upturn in the amount of e-Content projects being undertaken by the government. Overall the development of e-content in Ireland is still very much in its infancy as the majority of organizations, be they public or private are still coming to grips with the medium and most importantly beginning to understand what they want from it and how they plan to want to use it.
Which sector (business, private sector, government or civil society) in Ireland is advance in developing e-content?

It is certainly the government who is creating tremendous content especially using the digital media. Almost every government department is not only aggressively adopting to get digital but also smoothly serving the citizens. Therefore, the government is not only getting digital but getting contextual in terms of its accountability towards its citizens and pervasively using online media.
How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in Ireland?

During the dot-com boom, the private sector leads the development of e-content. The majority of the development focused on b2b and b2c services. In Ireland there were not as many dotcom start-ups as one may think and the majority of development was fueled by established organizations launching a internet arm to their business. Once the bubble burst the majority of the private sector investment and activity stopped almost over night. There a many reasons for this but in Ireland the majority of these established organizations did not achieve the returns that they had expected from their investment and drastically cut back on these initiatives, other organizations had heavily invested in infrastructure and associated software solutions and could not justify even further investment as the market had turned, the bubble had burst and the internet had temporarily lost its magnetism. Around this time Government agencies and departments began to invest in ICT. Most of this investment has been in developing both internal and external solutions. The majority of the external projects have been internet based and are predominantly information based services. Up to this point the Government are still far more proactive in the development of e-content based services. Only recently have the private sector resurfaced.

What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Ireland?

On average over 34 000 people graduate from third level studies in Ireland each year and since 1992 there has been an increase of 35% in students who study third level science/engineering/technology courses. (Ireland has a higher proportion of science graduates than any other EU member state) A significant number of these students choose to study business related studies as well. Combined with committed government spending and initiates for third level education and R&D initiatives for educational institutions, Ireland is becoming an acknowledged knowledge based society. Match this with the Corporate Tax rate of 12.5%, Ireland is an obvious choice for high value inward investment.With

“The indigenous software sector currently employs over 18,000 people, compared with 3000 people in 1992”

many of the leading ICT organizations choosing Ireland as their European base (The top 10 ICT companies in Ireland are employing more now than they did at the beginning of 2000 and over 300 overseas companies in the ICT sector have a presence in Ireland directly employing approximately 61,000) many Irish people are being exposed to the international aspects of big business and this has fueled a massive upturn in entrepreneurship within Ireland with many new companies starting to develop software and related services for both a national and international market. These government led initiatives are fueling the growth of an indigenous software and related services sector which is beginning to develop original e-content. The indigenous software sector currently employs over 18,000 people, compared with 3000 people in 1992

What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in Ireland?

I am optimistic that we are almost through the bottle neck and that Ireland are about to enter a fertile period in the development of e-content. The main bottlenecks were the availability of services, there are not as many as you would imagine and as for infrastructure the availability of broadband. The Broadband network gets better and better each week, the consumer has far more choices that they have ever had when selecting a broadband provider and PC and related hardware are getting cheaper. The sense of entrepreneurship is stronger than it has ever been and organizations (private and public) are far more aware of the processes required to develop world class e-content and this is beginning to happen. The general public is becoming more sophisticated and far less prepared to tolerate substandard technology and related e-Content. I think on the whole that Ireland Inc is ready to unleash their potential to develop original and relevant e-content. Watch this space.
In most countries, especially developing, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become pervasive and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc. What is the situation in Ireland?

“The development of e-content in Ireland is definitely getting better

Government is developing e-content at a rapid rate but its importance and uptake of these services by the ordinary person is under developed. In Ireland the government doesn’t really advertise e-content initiatives and therefore the onus is on the citizen to search and locate the services. The Revenue Commissioner however have done a fantastic job at advertising their online services (radio, press and TV) and the benefits of using their online tools and this has helped them to become one of the best showcases of best practice in the delivery of e-content related services in Ireland, unfortunately this is not done by many other agencies. With just over 25% of the population having used the internet there is still a long way to go until the public have been exposed to the practical benefits of the Internet and other ICT tools. Surprisingly the internet can do all or more than help you to book a holiday or purchase a book but people still need to be exposed to this. Exposure to IT’s in Ireland are increasing and the infrastructure is getting much better and as this develops more and more people will be exposed to the benefits of the medium and will consequently begin to take advantage of the many and varied e-content services that can be accessed through this medium.
What’s the future of e-content in Ireland?

The development of e-content in Ireland is definitely getting better. There is no doubt that the development of e-Content has been effected by the downturn in the market but I’m optimistic that this is about to change. Government is still struggling to get all of the project up and running but it must be noted that they have allot to do and some projects go better than others, this unfortunately is a fact of life. There is a commitment from government to deliver services to the citizen through the internet and in my experience the departments we have worked with are enthusiastic, committed to improvement and are focused on delivering excellence services to the citizen. However this cannot be done overnight and government will need to continue its commitment and investment.

The private sector on the whole have been very quite but the few organizations who have heavily invested in the delivery of e-Content are now starting to move into international markets and will hopefully become international household names. These companies have inspired new start-up and Ireland’s collective business confidence is beginning to reaping its awards internationally.

In Ireland an estimated 727,300 people use a computer every day or almost every day. An estimated 373,300 people in Ireland use the internet at least once a day. The most common internet purchases are travel and holiday accommodation. Virtually all businesses in Ireland use computers and have access to e-mail and the internet. The main purposes for which businesses use the internet are to search for information, to avail of banking and financial services, and to monitor markets. Businesses which have a website mainly use it to market their products and to make catalogues and price lists available. Just over half of all businesses have made some purchases using e-commerce, though the percentage of total purchases made in this way is small.
Which is the most preferred medium for e-content production in Ireland?

Currently in Ireland it’s the Internet. Mobile looks to be next and interactive TV will become the primary medium in the future.

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