19 September, Croke Park
Thank you Pat for your introduction and it's a pleasure to be here in the iconic surroundings of Croke Park.
We are here today to look to the future and discuss the many exciting developments and challenges it may bring.
Whilst the Government has done much to bring about improvements in our economy, we are conscious that we cannot be complacent.
We have to ask ourselves how we can continue to attract investment, encourage highly-skilled jobs and ensure that the benefits of innovation extend to all in society.
This is the purpose of the Data Summit.
It represents the Irish Government's determination to stay at the forefront of data and digital related developments and initiate a dialogue on their ever-expanding role in modern society.
It is the Government's stated aspiration to make Ireland the tech capital of Europe and to do this requires us to be at the vanguard of change.
Ireland has already shown real leadership in this area.
We have recognised that efforts to bring high-tech companies here needs to be complemented by a thorough data protection regime. We were one of the first EU countries to appoint a dedicated Data Protection Minister. We have allocated a six-fold increase in funding for the office of the Data Protection Commission since 2014.
We are fully compliant with the GDPR and introduced domestic legislation to give effect to it in good time.
We are conscious of the increased demands it will place on the Data Protection Commission and its staff and we will continue to monitor this situation closely.
We need to think about what future advances may bring, not just for governments or regulators but for all of society.
This is why all of you are here today. You will be debating some of the implications of technological change for sectors such as government, law enforcement, industry, health and education. This shows how every sector of economy and society will be affected by ongoing digital transformation.
National Broadband Plan
In the last century Ireland became the first country in the world to bring electricity to every home. Now we are determined to do this with broadband.
For Ireland this is a monumental task as 37% of our population live on 96% of the land mass of Ireland. We have the most dispersed population in Europe.
Today over 26% of homes and businesses in these rural areas have direct access to pure fibre optic cable to their door. And now we want to finish that job to give high speed broadband to every home and business, no matter where they are located.
Our National Broadband Plan will connect those not served by current commercial investment.
The procurement process for the Plan is now in its final stages. Yesterday I was pleased to announce to the Dail that the remaining bidder in the National Broadband Plan Procurement process submitted its Final Tender to my Department. When the Plan is rolled out the infrastructure will have the potential to deliver download speeds of over 100 megabits per second to residential customers and 1 Gigabit to any business.
This network will bring 1.1 million people into the modern digital age. It will give 41% of the nation's working population currently living in the intervention area the opportunity to work remotely.
This will bring a much needed and long awaited rejuvenation to rural Ireland, allowing all citizens, no matter where they live, access to all the opportunities the digital world has to offer.
EU Dimension and DSM
We realise that the greater the level of connectedness, the greater the benefits. This is as true at EU level as it is at national level and it is why we have been so active in the EU's digital agenda.
In this year's Digital Economy and Society Index, we have risen from 9th to 6th.
Our improved performance has been driven by the achievements in relation to STEM graduates, online trading by SME's and Open Data.
But we want to improve still further and we know we must do more in relation to areas like digital skills.
My Department's Trading Online Voucher Scheme is designed to support micro businesses. Those businesses with up to 10 employees and less than €2 million turnover per year, qualify to develop their trading online capability through this Scheme.
It offers a financial incentive of up to €2,500 along with training, mentoring and network support. This is a demand-led scheme delivered in every county by the Local Enterprise Office. Over 4,600 businesses have successfully applied for a voucher since the scheme launched in 2014 and over 11,500 businesses have benefited from digital training sessions. Those companies that take part in the Trading Online Voucher Scheme grow their sales on average by 21%, increase employment by 35% and 3 out of 5 begin exporting for the first time.
We realise that not only must we build up the skills of our citizens but also enhance the opportunities available to them.
One of the major opportunities that is presented to us is the EU Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy which the Irish Government has enthusiastically supported since its inception in 2015.
We have already completed excellent work on cybersecurity, GDPR and the Telecoms Code, Free Flow of Data and EU Roam Like at Home. We must continue to do so now in areas such as e-privacy where regulatory certainty is required for business and citizens and it must be proportionate.
A solid regulatory framework at EU level creates a strong foundation to build trust, increase investment and rollout of digital infrastructure, and enable opportunity for citizens and SMEs in particular.
It is essential that we all strike the right balance between encouraging investment and promoting competition, while ensuring an appropriate level of regulation.
Overregulation and protectionism risks isolating Europe, effectively building digital walls around us all and should be avoided.
As we turn the corner towards the end of the EU Digital Single Market Strategy, we need to seize the opportunity for the benefit of our citizens and society. We also need to provide clear regulatory certainty for businesses.
We are pleased to see the European Commission propose the new Digital Europe Programme under the future EU Budget negotiations, with an ambition to set aside some €9bn to increase European digital capacity. If we want to compete globally in the era of Big Data, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, scale matters.
Projections are by 2020 there will be 50,000 million items connected. That's 600 new appliances connected to the internet every second between now and 2020. There is no doubt that the Internet of Things provides us with huge potential.
As we exploit big data and the use of AI and Internet of Things we need to focus on benefits for the end user.
We recognise that human intervention can ensure that any technique or device can be used for good or ill. Online services are no different and we must be wary of how they can be misapplied.
In this jurisdiction, we are taking action with regard to issues of online safety. But we have also noted that there are kindred developments at EU level and we must work in harmony with our EU partners. The global nature of the internet also means that one country acting alone cannot tackle all of the risks.
Lastly, and as I'm sure everyone is aware, the fact that network connected devices are now integral to economic and social life, at a wide range of scales has brought with it a series of ever more complex vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities give rise to risks, to Governments, to citizens, to businesses and to the services that each of these rely on.
States all over the world have attempted to deal with these issues for some time. In the European Union we have taken a very rigorous and comprehensive approach to cyber security, and to the protection of critical infrastructure in particular.
In that regard, I am happy to announce that I have signed the Regulations required to bring the EU Network and Information Security Directive into effect in Ireland. The National Cyber Security Centre, which is based in my Department, will now move to formally designate key critical national infrastructure operators across a range of sectors, including energy, transport and internet infrastructure. This will oblige them to meet a set of security standards. These risks are real, and the measures introduced today will help manage these, for the benefit of everyone in the State.
Before I conclude, I would like to thank the members of the Government Data Forum who have lent their expertise and helped to develop the program.
And I also want to thank all the Data Summit sponsors who have kindly assisted with the efforts to make the Data Summit a reality.
Your help has been greatly appreciated.
I wish you all the best in your deliberations today.