Irish Future Internet Forum: Kilkenny Castle

Minister Fergus O’Dowd TD, Minister of State, (Left)
Dr. Willie Donnelly, Director of Research, WIT (Right)

Ireland’s technology leaders must act together to ensure that the country is ready to meet the challenges presented by the future Internet, delegates at the third Irish Future Internet Forum heard at Kilkenny Castle on Wednesday.

With many of the speakers referring to the emergence of countries like India and China as economic and technological hubs, the consensus was that Irish technology innovators need to work together to keep Ireland at the forefront of Internet development.

Fergal Ward, research manager at InTune Technologies said that, “we have to figure out a way of coming together. We’re five million people competing against five hundred million people”.

Throughout the day-long event organised by the TSSG, Science Foundation Ireland and <a href="Waterford Institute of Technology, presentations were given by researchers and representatives of funding agencies, international academics, and a panel of representatives from companies including Intel, Google and IBM.

The conference was opened by Minister of State Minister of State with special responsibility for the NewEra project, Fergus O’ Dowd, who called for, “policy makers, researchers, industry and funding agencies to share knowledge, and in particular to address challenges and opportunities regarding the revolutionary medium that is the Internet.”

The Minister said that, “the internet is a piece of critical infrastructure that permeates all levels of our economy, our society and our personal communication. The global reconfiguration of the Internet as we know it should not be seen as a choice for Ireland, it is arguably a prerequisite for Ireland’s economic recovery andlong-term growth.”

Dr. Willie Donnelly, the director of TSSG and head of research and innovation at WIT, described the event as an “open dialogue between stakeholders” in Ireland’s future Internet, and emphasised the importance of such dialogue, adding that, “it has never been more important that our economic development is driven by the ability to encompass change and encompass technology.

After hearing presentations from international academics and industry figures on the projected future Internet society of 2020, the audience were shown a video in which school children were asked what they liked and disliked about the internet, and what their hopes for the future Internet were. Most of their main complaints were regarding lack of quality or speed of connection. The point was taken up by subsequent speakers as indicative of the problems facing Ireland’s future Internet aspirations.

Joe Butler, principle engineer at Intel labs, pointed to quality issues as being potentially detrimental to future Internet development, noting that at Intel, “we see dependability as being one of the main gaps” in areas such as cloud computing. However he said that Ireland’s size, and the concentration of digital influencers in such a small area, meant that Ireland had the potential to be the innovators that could solve dependability issues.

“When we look at what we have here locally in terms of the footprint of international companies who are leaders in their own spaces, in such a tiny physical space, and a community where we have really good connections across academia, government, funding groups, regulatory bodies. We are compressed enough to do something much more quickly.”

Pól MacAonghusa of IBM research also spoke of, “not being afraid to pull together”.

“We are stronger when we pool our competences, and work that way. If what we choose to do is continue to iterate, we will be overtaken. We have to be prepared to be disruptive.”

Prompted by the suggestion by Dr. Donnelly that the visit of the European Future Internet Assembly to Ireland in 2013 might be an appropriate time for Ireland to make a statement of its intent regarding the future Internet, some panellists proposed that Irish industry figures take the opportunity to showcase Ireland’s potential as a future Internet innovation leader.

InTune’s Fergal Ward agreed that, “it’s great in any company to have a goal, to set your sights on something tangible that you can actually deliver.”

John Holland of Ericsson suggested the example of, “a showcase where, we know mobile is going to be a huge part of the Internet, so we want to be able to have gigabit per second applications shown in a live environment”.

Eoghan Nolan of Google suggested that official recognition of Internet connectivity as a fundamental requirement of inhabitants of the State, although “bold”, would be a suitable statement of intent from the government. Mr Nolan called for, “the recognition that in our day and age broadband access is a fundamental aspect that we need in our lives.”

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