Speech by Minister Seán Canney T.D.
School Digital Champion Showcase Event
The Foundry @ Google, Barrow Street, Dublin 2 D04 E5W5
Thursday 2nd May 2019
Thank you Shane. I would like to begin by extending a special word of appreciation to Google for hosting the School Digital Champion Showcase this year and inviting us into their state of the art European Headquarters.
A warm Cead Mile Fáilte to you all, particularly to the students who have travelled from all over the country to be here today. Today is your day; it is about recognising your talents and the hard work that you have put into completing your projects over the last few months.
A special word of thanks to the teachers many of whom have been involved since the pilot programme in 2015. Your leadership is important and your involvement is key to the success of this programme. Your support is appreciated.
My Department is pleased to partner with the Department of Education and Skills to deliver the School Digital Champion Programme and I welcome the support received from the Professional Development Service for Teachers.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the goodwill, expertise and support provided to the Schools Digital Champion Programme by our industry partners as well as the leading technology companies many of whom are represented here today.
You open your doors to the students to facilitate both the site visits and the provision of important targeted training. The programme would not be delivering the results we see here today without all of your continued support, so thank you.
We are very fortunate to have a number of the world's leading tech companies in Ireland. Our "Digital Champions" now have opportunities in the world of high tech or digital industries on their very own doorstep which is a significant and important development for Irish society and the economy.
School Digital Champion Programme
And now I turn to you our young people, our future generation.
At Government level we are working to improve and modernise the education system to meet your future needs, your abilities and your hopes. Nine out of ten jobs require digital skills so you are well placed already for a successful career.
I firmly believe that the classroom needs to reflect the reality of the world outside. Rapid changes in technology and increased global competition mean that having IT skills are more critical than ever.
The School Digital Champion Programme is designed to encourage the productive use of digital technology and data sources. With digital skills comes a world of opportunity and seeing the range of projects on display here today is truly inspiring. Projects which tackle real issues like digital inclusion Internet Safety and waste management, to name but a few. All of the projects I have seen here today have a role in today's world and can make a difference.
I am pleased to see that you will receive a Presentation from Google later on Online Safety.
Online Safety is increasingly recognised as one of the great challenges facing our society. The online world touches upon all aspects of Irish society and is no longer a separate space from our everyday lives.
It is clear that the online world brings enormous benefits. We see these benefits in our everyday lives, from the small business owner using new technologies to improve their products and services, to families communicating with loved ones abroad in an instant. However, we are increasingly aware that the online world presents risks, especially to vulnerable members of our society, including our children.
As chairperson of the recently established National Advisory Council for Online Safety, which brings together experts from across industry, NGOs, academia and Government, I am keenly aware of the great deal of important work being done in this space.
However, we must do more. On 4 March 2019 my colleague Minister Bruton announced his intention to bring forward new online safety legislation and held a public consultation to inform the development of this legislation.
While the era of self-regulation in this area is over, it would be impossible to remove every risk from the internet or from the adaptation of new technology. What we can do is ensure that there is a clear, appropriate and effective regulatory environment in which to tackle these risks.
This new legislation will set a clear expectation for relevant service providers to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service. A regulator, an Online Safety Commissioner, would oversee the new system.
The development of this legislation represents an important step in online regulation in Ireland and I would like to thank everyone who responded to the consultation. Your views will be invaluable in designing the Government's proposed approach to the regulation of harmful content online.
National Broadband Plan
Today's students may not be familiar with the tone of the dial-up modem that provided the first slow internet access to many people in Ireland from 20 years ago to relatively recent times. This does not mean that you haven't experienced the frustration of accessing the internet using a slow service. Government has a plan which will ensure that this is no longer an issue.
The goal of the Irish Government's National Broadband Plan is to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland - regardless of how remote or rural - has access to high speed broadband.
The NBP is driven through a combination of commercial and State investment.
The NBP has already provided a stimulus to the market so that today commercial operators have invested nearly 3 billion euro in upgrading and modernising their networks over the past 5 years, and further investments are planned.
In 2012, less than 700,000 of all 2.3 million premises in Ireland had access to high speed broadband. In April 2016, 1.2 million or 52% of all premises had access to high speed broadband.
Today, over 1.75 million or 74% of all premises in the country can access high speed broadband services from commercial providers.
I welcome recent announced investments in high speed broadband infrastructure by commercial operators.
However, while commercial operators are delivering the NBP in many cities, towns and villages there are areas where operators will not invest in this vital service. This is where the Government must step in.
The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. Minister Bruton will bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.
Digital connectivity has multiple positive impacts on the lives and livelihoods of citizens throughout the country. The objectives of the NBP aim to ensure that high quality reliable and future proofed connectivity is available to every home and every business nationwide.
1.1 million people live in the areas covered by the State intervention. The towns, villages, regions and islands these areas are home to communities who need this service to thrive and prosper. These are communities where many are self-employed, engaged in running over 44,000 small to medium businesses or running almost 56,000 farms.
The challenge to deliver high speed broadband is not unique to Ireland – a dispersed rural population will remain marginalised if it cannot participate in cloud-based service, if it is not able to participate in remote services that will undoubtedly deliver greater quality of life, and is not able to be part of the transformative nature brought by the Internet of things.
The ambition to provide a once off intervention and provide a future proofed solution has been recognised in Ireland as the right approach.
The direct effect of the Government's State investment will ensure that all citizens across the country will have equal access to a reliable, quality high speed broadband service.
Finally, I would like to congratulate you on being selected as School Digital Champions you should be so proud of the work you have done. I ask you to continue to share your skills within your school, with your families and your community to contribute actively to society by using your digital skills as an enabler for positive change.
I wish you all the very best for the future.