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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Digital Skills for Life from

Below is a link to an article published on Silicon Republic and in the Irish Independent. I'm a big believer that digital literacy is as vital now as the so-called three R's: "reading, writing and arithmetic". If we are going to have a Smart Economy, we have to have smart people. The Digital Media Forum, which I chair, has teamed up with to launch a new Digital Skills Programme - which will help anyone, anywhere learn the basics in digital skills. They can do it online if they want at

So how can someone who is digitally unskilled go online and do a course, I hear you ask? Well, they can ask someone to help them buy it online or they can ring 1850 88 5858 and get talked through the process. Once there in, the course is very simple to use. Alternatively, they can attend a nearby training course in a classroom.

Here's the link to the article:

posted by Neil Leyden @ 4:41 p.m. 0 comments

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Silicon Republic lays down the gauntlet

Kieran O'Hea from Marano Consultants drew my attention to this article. Spot on. Let's not make the same mistake twice.

"In 2002 Ireland was at a crossroads. It could have focused its energies on creating a vibrant,

innovation-driven economy led by well-funded entrepreneurs driving scalable export-oriented

businesses that would generate employment in parishes across the land. Or it could have focused on the then burgeoning construction industry, which saw opportunities in the housing boom. We opted for the latter route, more Irish money went into the commercial UK property market than local businesses and the rest – including €90bn of financial debt which NAMA will have to absorb – is history. But it could have been different. It still can be different.”

posted by Neil Leyden @ 11:43 a.m. 0 comments

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feedback from Farmleigh

Here is the feedback from the Global Irish Economic Forum on the ICSC proposition and related technology actions.

Full document here

Topic: ‘Innovation: Communications and Energy’

Breakout Panel Discussion - Saturday, 19 September 2009

Moderator: David McWilliams (Economist, author & broadcaster)

Eamon Ryan, T.D. Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Conor Lenihan, T.D. Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Science,

Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources

Barry McSweeney Director, National Knowledge Society Strategy,

Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

Tim Fritzley CEO, Intune Networks

John Shine Deputy Chief Executive ESB & MD ESB Networks

Neil Leyden Chairman, Digital Media Forum

Summary Report

This session took the form of presentations by several domestic-based experts who

presented to participants for feedback and relevant recommendations a number of

proposals emanating from the July 2009 report on Technology Actions to Support the

Smart Economy. Overall participants endorsed implementation of the proposed

actions presented.

Participants unanimously welcomed the proposal to develop a revolutionary high-

speed and energy efficient communications network based on Optical Burst Switching

(OBS) technology. It was noted that this network would bring trade and employment

to Ireland’s cities and towns, and place Ireland in a leading position as a test bed for a

range of advanced telecom equipment and services, assist the development of

Distributed Data Centres and provide state-of-the-art support to the proposed

International Content Services Centre.

The proposed development of energy efficient Data and Cloud computing centres in

Ireland was similarly well received. Speakers noted that Ireland is in an excellent

position to develop as a global hub for data/cloud computing given our high levels of

expertise associated with existing and planned centres. While participants

acknowledged that Data Centres are not major employers in themselves, it was

emphasised that they attract valuable international and European corporate

headquarters. Participants referred to Ireland’s strong skills in Virtualisation, the

national group developing optimisation and standardisation criteria, and the highly

relevant expertise in Distributed Data Centres. It was also noted that several

significant international players have already established data and cloud computing

centres in Ireland.

In relation to the proposal that Ireland would develop a content management

destination, modelled on the IFSC, streamlining the storage, localisation, delivery and

distribution of digital content, participants agreed that Ireland could usefully exploit

unmet global needs in this area. It was also emphasised that the development of such

an International Content Services Centre offered a real opportunity to take advantage

of new and existing technology expertise in Ireland.

With regard to the proposal that Ireland develop a Smart Electricity Network to inter

alia facilitate the incorporation of renewable energy onto the grid and support the

development of an Electric Vehicle network, participants cautioned that Ireland

should focus on smaller niche areas rather than tackling entire sectors where

competitors would have advantages of scale – e.g. while we would not have the

research capacity to lead on the development of electric vehicles, we could identify

and become expert in suitable ancillary areas such as batteries or the billing interface

for the charge point.

The proposals for the development of an intelligent transport system to benefit

commuters, and the Smart Bay marine test bed were also welcomed by participants.

posted by Neil Leyden @ 8:56 p.m. 0 comments

Sunday, October 11, 2009

ICSC part of the New Programme for Government

Yesterday, the Green party endorsed a new Programme for Government and I'm glad to say, among some other far-reaching initiatives, they've included the ICSC as part of the programme.

posted by Neil Leyden @ 12:25 p.m. 0 comments

Monday, October 05, 2009

Innovation Dublin: the ICSC vision

The following is a blog post I wrote for Innovation Dublin

In January of 2009, I wrote an article for Enterprise Ireland’s Technology Ireland magazine putting forward a vision for an International Content Services Centre (ICSC). The analogy with the successful International Financial Service Centre (or IFSC) located in the Dublin Docklands was a purposeful one. During the 1980s, finance became a global commodity and digitisation meant that the back office functions of a bank could be geographically dislocated from the front office. Ireland, by creating a tax-incentivised location, took advantage of this opportunity and created an economic powerhouse for the Irish economy.

In a sense, content is going through the same metamorphosis as finance did two decades ago. Digitisation and technology have meant that content has become an easily traded global commodity. The opportunity is now there to create a central location that could facilitate those global transactions.

To the credit of the Minister of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan and his Chief Technology Advisor, Barry McSweeney, they picked up on the idea and have put it forward as one of six “Technology Actions for the Smart Economy”. Currently, we are going through the strategic planning phase for this project.

The International Content Services Centre concept is predicated on the idea that all content (film, television, newspapers, books, music, imagery etc.) now exists in a digital format. In effect, it has become binary: ones and zeros. Through the internet it can flow easily on a global level between anyone with a suitable web connection. However, much of this content has rights ownership attached, which places a legal impediment on its distribution.

The ICSC would facilitate the brokerage of those rights to ensure the free trade of content between consumers and also ensure that rights holders are reimbursed “fairly” for use and consumption of their content. In a nutshell, it would specialise in localisation, rights clearance and management, storage, distribution and collection associated with the trade of content globally.

One of the motivating factors behind the ICSC concept was the realisation that in Europe, fractured rights issues and territorialisation of content have made it very difficult to sell indigenous content across borders. For example, you can’t watch The Late Late Show legally outside of Ireland. In fact, the majority of RTÉ’s output is not cleared to be broadcast outside of Ireland. The same goes for most European content too. This, I believe, may have cataclysmic consequences for European culture in the long run. We have already seen the supremacy of US content in the film, television and games industries globally and this is in a world where the majority of content is still shipped in hard-copy format, be it on DVD or on celluloid print.

As we hurtle into the digital age, it will become even easier for US content to be distributed widely – and the hegemony of that culture will grow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against US cultural forms. In fact, I’m a big fan of their content. But I believe in a world of choice and variety and it would be a shame to see European content “ghettoised” due to easily overcome rights issues.

I had the pleasure of recently presenting this vision to the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh. One of the points made there – not in criticism, necessarily – was that this was a vastly ambitious project. Although, I don’t accept that its ambition is a weakness, I have begun to clarify the vision. In the short-term, the scale would be limited to servicing Europe, Middle East and Africa in much the same way as technology and software companies such as Microsoft, eBay and IBM have headquartered their European operations here. The ICSC would act as a gateway for US content into Europe and also as a hub for European content being traded back into the US.

So what might the ICSC look like? Well, my vision is of a Dublin Docklands location which will attract the premier content rights holders in the world: Getty Images, Disney, EA Games, Warner Brothers, Sony, etc.

That these companies will host their content throughout the many cloud-computing centres located all around Ireland, creating employment in service areas such as storage, legal rights, localisation and transaction.

That in turn, indigenous Irish companies such as Muzu.TV, DV4, RTÉ and Brown Bag Films (to name but a few) would avail of these services to exploit their own content globally, acting as a vehicle for Irish culture and innovation and making Ireland a powerhouse in terms of content creation. I’m not just talking about the culture of Riverdance, W.B Yeats or The Quiet Man, which is all well and good. I’m talking more importantly about the contemporary culture that’s emerging all around us and which can be seen at the Darklight Film Festival, in the burgeoning games industry, on social networks like Bebo and Facebook, among new music industry practitioners exploiting digital connectivity and emerging entrepreneurs creating Web 2.0 and mobile applications.

First and foremost, the International Content Services Centre will be a facility for global content, aimed at securing foreign direct investment in this country for an emerging digital content sector. But potentially, it may also act as the vehicle for Irish content (or content from Ireland, if you see the distinction) to be relayed around the world.

For more info on the ICSC go to

posted by Neil Leyden @ 9:33 p.m. 0 comments