The government have launched a new national digital strategy, Harnessing Digital – The Digital Ireland Framework, to drive and enable the digital transition across the Irish economy and society.
The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, not least through increased digital usage. Many more people are working remotely or learning online, as well as engaging in online shopping and digital public services.
As Ireland emerges from the pandemic, the government wants to capture and build upon the positive elements of this experience, in a considered and balanced way.
We also want to build on our unique economic eco-system and on Ireland’s success as the European Headquarters for many high-tech multinationals.
This high-level framework sets out a pathway to support Ireland’s ambition to be a digital leader at the heart of European and global digital developments; and places a strong emphasis on inclusiveness, security and safety, underpinned by strong governance and a well-resourced regulatory framework. For example, the new Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will help to protect Irish citizens from the spread of harmful online content.
The Digital Ireland Framework will help to maximise the well-being of Irish people and their businesses, the length and breadth of the country. It will help us fully realise many of the benefits of digital including: more flexible and remote working and new job opportunities; new markets and customers for businesses; more efficient and accessible public services for all; and empowerment and choice in how we learn or participate in social activities.
The government will ensure these benefits are achieved by:
- Making connectivity available to everyone, including through the National Broadband Plan, Remote Working Hubs and Broadband Connection Points, with a target of having all Irish households and businesses covered by Gigabit network no later than 2028 and all populated areas covered by 5G no later than 2030.
- Providing digital skills for all – from school, to further and higher education, to life-long learning, with a target of increasing the share of adults with at least basic digital skills to 80% by 2030.
- Ensuring widespread access and use of inclusive digital public services, with a target of 90% of services to be consumed online by 2030.
- Helping small businesses benefit from digital opportunities by providing grants and assistance, with a target of 90% of SME at basic digital intensity by 2030 and 75% enterprise take-up in cloud, AI and big data.
- Investing in cyber-security to protect Irish citizens and businesses, including increased resources for the National Cyber Security Centre.
- Ensuring a modern and well-resourced regulatory framework.
- Playing a leading role in Europe right across the digital agenda.
This digital strategy aligns with both EU priorities, under the Digital Decade, and national priorities, under the 2021 Economic Recovery Plan and Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It also complements our work towards achieving Ireland’s climate targets, with our green and digital ambitions re-enforcing each other.
The new National Digital Strategy places a particular emphasis on cyber security, and commits to reviewing the National Cyber Security Strategy in 2022, to recognise progress made and to respond effectively to an evolving landscape. The National Cyber Security Strategy focuses on the protection of the State, its people and businesses, and its critical national infrastructure. As we progress implementation of the Strategy, further measures, to enhance and strengthen Ireland’s approach, will be considered as part of the review.
All groups will be enabled to benefit from digital opportunities under this new Digital Ireland Framework. The government will ensure effective delivery, through strong political leadership and oversight on digital issues, and strengthened governance structures; as well as active consultation with stakeholders. The Tánaiste, supported by relevant Minister of States, will take a leading role on digital issues and related engagement, ensuring delivery of the ambitions set out in this strategy.
In welcoming the Strategy, the Taoiseach emphasised the importance of harnessing digitalisation gains for all, saying, “the pandemic changed many aspects of our lives, not least through our use of the internet, in working remotely, learning and shopping online, or accessing digital public services.”
“Our new digital strategy aims to maximise the potential of online to increase the well-being of Irish people and our small businesses. We want to build on Ireland’s successes, with new job and business opportunities, more efficient and accessible government services, more flexible working, a better work-life balance, and better sustainability.”
The Tánaiste highlighted the importance of digitalisation for SMEs and the wider benefits for citizens, saying, “more and more, digital will be part of the fabric of our everyday lives and the government wants to make sure that everyone is prepared for this. The experience of the pandemic has shown how rapid the pace of change has been. Digital technologies helped us to implement the vaccine programme as well as carry out contact tracing. On farms, we can now collect and analyse data to measure milk production, grass management and weather patterns. For many Irish businesses, online shopping and using social media to reach new customers kept them afloat during lockdowns. For citizens, we now have a much larger number of services available online – from renewing your passport to filing tax returns. There are risks too, which of course need to be managed. This Strategy is about taking advantage of new technologies for the benefit of all citizens and businesses.”
The Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement and eGovernment and special responsibility for Communications and Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth TD, emphasised the importance of the government as an enabler of digital infrastructure. He highlighted the links to Ireland’s sustainability agenda, and the value of an ethical approach, noting, “as we advance Ireland’s digital journey, this Strategy will ensure we do so in a comprehensive and values-based way. The digital transition, enabled by universal, high-quality connectivity, will be particularly important for our decarbonisation transition, with digital technologies supporting the achievement of our climate targets, for example optimising energy use or reducing emission through less commuting.”
“The Strategy sets out a coherent framework to oversee the increased uptake of digital technologies across all sectors of the economy and society. The ambitious targets for digital connectivity will be a central enabler in achieving the transition and will support the government in increasing the uptake of digital government services and achieving the ambitious target of having 90% of services used online, and do this in an inclusive and transparent way.”
The Minister of State with responsibility for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD, noted, “Ireland’s new National Digital Strategy sets out a clear framework for how we can embrace the opportunities digital technologies present and to futureproof our economy in the years ahead. As the past two years have shown, digitalisation is vital for businesses, whether they have navigated periods of restrictions with staff working remotely or moved towards trading online for the first time.”
“With the launch of the digital strategy, we are setting ambitious targets for the next phase of digitalisation in Ireland so that we can continue to reap the benefits offered by digital technologies. Preparing for tomorrow’s economy and society means seizing the opportunities presented by digital technologies and will enable us to chart a course of recovery that is open, collaborative and responsive to new developments on the horizon.”