National Broadband Scheme launch
This is crucial development in social and economic development of Ireland and particularly rural Ireland, roughly one third of the country which while they may have had certain broadband services they didn’t have full or easy access, so we’re going, the government is I suppose recognising this as an essential service and intervening in cooperation with the market to provide such services. What we’re doing is, I believe, ahead of what other countries are doing; for too long our thinking is there and we have lagged behind. The reality now in this country with broadband is that we have caught up. And I think to tell just some of that good news story, when we do need it, we need a lift in this fearful and difficult economic time, when we do have an economic crisis confronting us on various different fronts; but one article in the paper yesterday, I took two lines out of it, if I can draw your attention to: “In the last decade, our exports of services increased five-fold”, and that accounts for about half of our total exports. In the last four years, five years, between 2003 and 2007 our percentage share of world trade and services went from 2% to 5%; a small country like Ireland, with one twentieth of the world’s trade and services. That is where our opportunity lies. That is where the new jobs lie; that is where the new jobs are already coming, in the likes of the “J2 Hub” and other companies that are continuing to invest here and know enterprising Irish people who are using the internet as a gateway to the world and for us to do what we do well, sell to the rest of the world. Crucially that is now going to be available in the farthest northwest of Donegal, in the farthest southwest of Kerry. We are providing this national broadband scheme new access to twenty five of twenty six counties and that is a fundamental improvement to the infrastructure in our country. It’s on the back of a series of other changes. That fact that I said that in the last two years we’ve gone from something like half a million houses connected to the internet to now close to one and a quarter million. That we’ve launched only a couple of weeks ago, in cooperation with our colleagues up north, a major new broadband connection from Ireland to the U.S. in project Kelvin; that we’re setting out in our national broadband strategies to go into our schools and provide high speed broadband connectivity to our secondary schools so that our young people have such access to the internet and the learning that they can gain from it. Crucially, our wireless spectrum, this new asset we have; the ability of technology to connect by wireless means is one of the crucial developments for this area of the world economy. So it is happening, we are progressing and we have the potential in dark and difficult times to say to our people that it is in this area that jobs will come, no matter where you live, no matter how rural, no matter whether it’s a farm, or a village pub or a factory, that we are going to provide that access and you are going to be connected to the wider world. It is a 223 million euro investment. It’s creating immediately, forgetting about even those jobs that will come on the back of it, 170 new jobs to deliver the scheme we have. And I’m very proud of the role that the department played in the management of a very complex contract, ahead of any other country in its detail, in its complexity and in its outcome.