Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to have been invited here this evening and to be able to welcome you all to the third annual Digital Media Awards.
This evening's event gives us an opportunity to meet in a relaxed setting and review developments in the Digital Media Sector over the last year. The success of these Awards is clear from the increase in the number of entries from 220 in 2003 to over 400 this year. Indeed the event now covers 7 broad categories with some 27 awards up for decision.
I am delighted to say that Digital Media Intelligence is planning to export this event to Europe in the near future and North America later this year.
Digital Media is at the cornerstone of the Government's Information Society Agenda and represents the type of value-added activity that I believe will safeguard Ireland's future at the forefront of the knowledge society.
As evidence of the contribution the ICT sector is making to our economy it is worth noting that:
- Seven of the world's top ten leading ICT companies have a base in Ireland;
- One third of all PC's sold in Europe are manufactured in Ireland;
- The sector employs over 90,000 people in some 1,300 companies
The Government wants to ensure that Ireland's digital future will continue to be a key driver of our ongoing economic development.
Turning to developments in the Digital Hub, I would particularly like to single out the success of the Hub in the social and community development aspects of its remit. The Diageo Liberties Learning Initiative has been an outstanding success.
It has delivered 20 programmes involving over 6,000 people, including sixteen local schools, the wider community of the Liberties, and the Irish digital media sector.
I note that St Catherine's School are just one of the 9 Hub-based projects that are in the running for an award here today - Best of luck to them!
In addition the Hub has expanded rapidly since last year and now has approximately 40 new and existing media organisations located in the area with more than 300 people now employed there. This represents more than a doubling of companies on last year.
There is now a diverse cluster of digital media enterprises, involved in a variety of areas including gaming, animation and mobile technologies. This diversity has allowed the companies based here to successfully team up for business tenders and other joint ventures.
This success is expected to continue into 2005, with many of the companies anticipating further expansion in the year ahead.
Of course all these companies locating in the Hub have access to some of the best telecommunications infrastructure in Europe.
Extensive telecommunication infrastructure has been put in place consisting of a 3.5km fibre optic ring and a Network Operations Centre interconnecting the project with the Dublin City Metropolitan Area Network.
Companies also have access to a state-of-the-art voiceover IP telephone system, broadband data capability and world-class video conferencing and presentation facilities.
I understand that there are a number of other potential clients interested in locating there and these companies could be accommodated on a temporary basis in the former MLE facilities.
Further down the road we are looking at putting in place a new digital research centre there and a process to select an organisation to manage the facility is already underway.
The progress being made in the Digital Hub is mirrored by the strides being taken to ensure all-Ireland broadband connectivity.
We need affordable broadband. I believe in recent months we have made major strides in that direction.
Over the last 3 years Government and the EU will have invested €64 million on the 19 towns Metropolitan Area Networks. Another 7 MANs in the North-East and Sligo are currently under construction.
Between now and 2007 a further €140 million will be spent bringing broadband to every town with a population of 1,500 people.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to salute all finalists present here this evening. You are the pioneers of a New Age - one that is vital for our future prosperity.
I would also like to thank Digital Media Intelligence, for their invitation to address you this evening and for their ongoing commitment towards Digital development, as well as sponsors Post-It, the European Digital Media Association and the Irish Computer Society for their support.
I trust you all will have an enjoyable evening.