A Lagging Internet Economy Holds Everyone Back

Dana Strong, CEO UPC IrelandIt’s a small country with a thriving, and largely tech-focused, start-up scene. It boasts the European HQ of just about every tech giant.

But Ireland’s existing small and medium businesses have been very slow to take advantage of the internet.

As recently as 2011, it was estimated that 40% of the country’s SMEs do not have a website. Shoppers, meanwhile, go online for cheaper prices than are available locally — a double whammy for small businesses.

This was part of the background laid out by Dana Strong, CEO of UPC Ireland at this morning’s Cornflakes & Commerce talk at the National College of Ireland (@ncirl).

Citing a McKinsey report on the percentage of the internet economy relative to the whole economy, Strong said Ireland is slightly behind the EU average of 3%.

But when it comes to GDP growth, the internet accounts for around one-fifth of growth.

If Ireland was to match the 8% contribution of the internet in its nearest neighbors in the UK, the additional value would be around $12 billion, Strong said. “It does give a clear and strong direction of what the potential could be.”

Part of Liberty Global Europe, UPC Ireland is the country’s largest cable TV provider. In recent years, it has started offering broadband, telephone and TV on demand services. It is closing in on 1 million customers in the residential and commercial sectors.

Strong, meanwhile, is an American who came here via Australia where she was Chief Operating Officer for Austar, another Liberty Global company.

Strong had a number of proposals to boost Ireland’s digital economy. “We must drive forward the digital economy to create growth,” Strong said. Her suggestions:

  • Invest in digital infrastructure
  • Be “tech neutral.” Use fiber, satellite, DSL, etc., where it makes most sense
  • Improve IT education, and encourage use among older and less-well-off people. “We cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” she said.

 

Image of Dana Strong is a UPC publicity shot.