Digital Masterplan – Rationale

A Digital Masterplan will deliver on key overall objectives for the Dublin region, including enhanced quality of life for residents and visitors, as well as improved infrastructure and environment for the day to day operations and service delivery of small and large enterprises, public sector bodies and civil society.

These include:

European Commission

In August 2010, the European Commission adopted its Digital Agenda for Europe.  The Digital Agenda for Europe aims to deliver sustainable economic and social benefits from a digital single market based on fast and ultra fast internet and interoperable applications.  It realizes that the deployment and take up of faster networks opens up a pathway to innovative services and greater sustainable economic growth.   Ireland will need to deliver 30 Mbps services universally by 2020 with 50% of households subscribing to 100 Mbps or higher by that date.

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, 2012

Ireland has already surpassed, by some margin, a number of the EU’s future Digital Agenda Targets. The National Broadband Plan actually sets targets for the roll-out of broadband in excess of those set by the European Commission’s Agenda:

  • 70Mbps – 100Mbps available to at least 50% of the population with a majority having access to 100Mbps
  • At least 40Mbps, and in many cases much faster speeds, to at least a further 20% of the population and potentially as much as 35% around smaller towns and villages
  • A minimum of 30Mbps available to all

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, forthcoming

The National Digital Strategy will be published in 2013.  It is expected to contain a series of actions which will aid the Government, businesses, research and citizens to engage more fully and maximise the potential of the digital technologies and services and to transform society, realising socio-economic benefits and increasing digital uptake.  Already actions are in place such as the appointment of Lord David Puttnam as the Digital Champion for Ireland and the Digital Agenda Assembly held in Dublin in June 2013.

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, 2013

The Action Plan for Jobs 2013 is the Government’s plan to rebuild the economy and support the transition to a sustainable, jobs rich economy based on enterprise, innovation and exports.
The Plan contains 333 actions to be implemented in 2013 by 16 Government Departments and 46 agencies and will build on the major progress made in 2012 and continue to improve supports for job creating businesses and remove the barriers to employment creation across the economy. The Action Plan for Jobs 2013 contains seven “Disruptive Reform” measures, which should be implemented in partnership with senior industry figures and selected for their potential to have a significant effect on job creation.

Rationale for a Masterplan

The Dublin City region is Ireland’s engine for growth and its global gateway.  A decade for action is upon the city leadership and the realisation of the Digital City is a central part of a more sustainable future for all.  Cities and regions that have the infrastructure, processes and people in place to adapt to rapid change will realise competitive advantage in the short, medium and long term building international reputability, talent base, efficiencies and robustness.

Jobs and innovation are central tenets of the Masterplan therefore Dublin’s central role in realising this potential places considerable responsibility on the city and its custodians.  As pointed out by the Action Plan for Jobs 2013, growth in the digital economy will promote commerce and will improve competitiveness, delivering long-term advantages for businesses and consumers..  The National Digital Strategy highlights the need for adoption of trading on-line by small businesses to support economic growth and jobs with 3,200 jobs expected to be created nationally in 2013 and 2014 from an additional 2000 companies starting up online.  Ireland and Dublin must seek to reduce business leakage out of Ireland and to maximise growth and jobs from the burgeoning internet economy.

The solutions to the creation of a digital city are hung upon principles related to sustainability (including sustainable economic growth), openness, access rights, quality of living and inclusive partnerships and are facilitated by people, tools, guides and plans.  This Masterplan provides a roadmap for key stakeholders to deliver appropriate actions through the use of digital tools and services across the plans and processes which regulate and direct the running of the city region.   The Masterplan seeks to speed up the process of digital integration for use within businesses and society.  Dublin will, in this way, become a society and economy in which the use of digital technologies and processes are as consistent with everyday living as walking and sleeping.

Successful cities are centres of innovation and entrepreneurship that have the ability to retain and attract talented and highly skilled workers and are competitive locations for global and regional headquarters.  However, a global city lacking a coherent digital policy will find the development of its civil society and the digital capability of its companies is inhibited and unattractive to talent and investment.  Cities as centres for employment, education, culture, commerce and a suite of other activities are inextricably linked to the process of globalisation.  This latter process has been swept along in recent years by increasingly interactive and immediate transfer of knowledge and ideas.  It is perhaps this factor which sees cities, more than ever as the main nodal points within a global network of commerce and trade.   The 21st Century has also been regularly referred to as the “Century of the City”. In fact by 2050 over three quarters of the world’s population will reside within urban areas.  This growth brings with it a combination of opportunities and challenges in which digital will play a central role.

As cities geographically expand and intensify their activities including the diversity of their economic base, movement of goods and people, consumption and resource demands, the economies and dis-economies of scale are realised.  The expanding system becomes ever more complex and in the absence of innovation, new and improved systems of thinking and design, in theory, it would become chaotic and uncontrollable.  The rapid emergence and advancement of digital technologies has allowed authorities and the citizens of the global mosaic of cities to better manage their systems, processes, interaction and daily living.

The positive impacts of urban growth include idea generation and knowledge transfer; service efficiencies and productivity gains; better matches between skills and opportunities; proximity to large local markets and access to global markets. In 2012, UN Habitat estimated that around 66 per cent of global economic activity and approximately 85 per cent of technological and scientific innovation can be attributed to just 40 urban mega regions.  Negative effects include environmental degradation for example, air and noise pollution; resource deficiencies (such as water shortages) and congestion of physical networks.  The application and development of the digital city is one means to accentuate positive outcomes and allow for better management and reduction of negative impacts.

Digital means jobs and economic growth

If Ireland follows the trend in other countries at a similarly advanced stage of digitisation, then the internet’s contribution to the economy will grow from about 3 per cent of GDP at present to 6 per cent by 2016. This equates to an increase in the value of Ireland’s digital economy from under €5 billion this year to over €11.3 billion in 2016 (UPC, Digital Index Report).  Moreover, it is estimated that raising the level of digitisation in Ireland to that of our nearest neighbour, the UK, would reduce the numbers of unemployed individuals in Ireland by nearly 18,000.  For reference, the Boston Consulting Group estimated that the UK’s internet economy was worth over 8 per cent of GDP in 2010 making it the most web dependent economy in the world.

Questions have arisen in some circles as to whether the digital economy is leading towards job creation or destruction scenario.  Evidence from California shows positive trends in terms of job creation and the digital economy. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute found in 2012 that for every high-tech job created (within the STEM subjects) four more emerge in various sectors across the local economy over time.  This multiplier effect comes from within a sector which is outstripping all others in terms of growth.  Demand for these high tech occupations is expected to remain very high through to 2020.

In Ireland, an examination of CSO Business Demography data shows that the total number of active enterprises in the State dropped by 7.8 per cent to 195’431 enterprises over a five year period from 2006 to 2010.SME’s fell by 7.6 per cent during the same period. When Dublin is removed from the State sample, the fall in active enterprises is much more pronounced with close to an 11 per cent drop in active enterprises in total and for SME’s between 2006 and 2011.  Dublin has maintained its total number of SME’s.

However, Dublin’s importance to the national economy and resilience is most evident across the ICT sector which grew in terms of the number of employees between 2006 and 2010.   Figures from the CSO Businesses Demography database show that the number of active enterprises in the ICT sector in Dublin as a proportion of the national total hovered around 50 percent (Figure 1) however,  in terms of total numbers of persons active in the sector Dublin’s proportion grew from 58 per cent to just under 64 per cent (Figure 3).   The total number of ICT related business in Dublin increased by approximately 300 between 2006 and 2010 (Figure 2).

Enterprises in Dublin

Figure 1: The number of ICT businesses in Dublin as a proportion of the national total


Figure 2: Growth in ICT Enterprises in Dublin prior to and during the recession (CSO Business Demography Data, 2012)


Figure 3: Persons Engaged in ICT – Numbers in Dublin as a percentage of the national total (CSO Business Demography, 2012)

The wider Dublin region is home to eight of the world’s top 10 ICT companies and as such, is in a unique position to continue to grow the ICT sector in the local economy.  In a recent study, ‘Dublin’s Role in the Irish and Global Economy’, 2012 carried out by the Dublin Local Authorities and UCD mapped the ICT sector, exhibiting  its importance to the knowledge economy, its role as a facilitator of sectoral convergence and its potential to assist in and steer national and regional economic recovery.  The results indicate where the ICT sector concentrates geographically across the nation. The significance of ICT within Ireland’s major Gateways is noteworthy).  As of April 2012, almost 50% of IDA site locations in Ireland for the ICT sector were located in the Dublin city region; 35% were in the other major Gateways.  The Digital Economy is of course not dependent on boundaries but does thrive where knowledge clusters.


Figure 4: Significant concentration of ICT businesses nationally (GPEP, UCD, 2012)

Initiatives such as “Activate Dublin” have carried out in-depth research into the need to provide additional incubator space for High Potential Start-Ups in Dublin.  Activate Dublin states that Dublin is currently a hotbed of tech innovation with more than 200 tech focused start-ups based in incubators around the city and Dublin region; more than 160 companies since 2003 through the Digital Hub, employing over 2’000 workers today;.

Supporting this is a healthy availability of seed funding – with more start-up funding currently available in Dublin than in London (approximately 250 million euro). Dublin is also home to three of the top ten tech accelerator programs in Europe.  They propose a strategy for Dublin as the best start-up city in Europe, a singular unit to drive this strategy and a one stop portal for services and supports for start-ups; identification of spaces for start-ups and improvement, a more streamlined visa service and clarification of the current regulatory framework.


Figure 5: Physical space for start-ups both informal and formal (Slideshare : The Irish Tech Startup Guide, Frontline Ventures,

Skills and Talent

There has been a renewed focus in recent years on attracting high-tech FDI and on marketing Ireland as the ‘Innovation Island’. While it is hoped that this strategy will create many high-value jobs, this action plan necessitates Ireland having a large stock of highly skilled and adaptable workers.  In Ireland there are over 75,000 ICT workers and 8,000 ICT based companies, with over half of these based in Dublin (CSO, 2012).

These and other emerging companies are demanding a diverse range of skills from cloud computing, database management, service design, social media and networks to internet marketing and e-commerce.   The Forfás Expert Group on Future Skills Needs in January 2012 outlined that these companies tend to demand NFQ Level 8 honours degree in ICT with 2-8 years experience.

The Irish Governments Action Plan for Jobs 2012 targeted key sectors where there is significant potential for job creation, such as high-end manufacturing, the establishment of a Health Innovation Hub, in collaboration with the life sciences industry, the development of technology for the green economy, cloud computing and digital games (DJEI, 2012).  In continuance, The Action Plan for Jobs 2013 commits to the supply of high level ICT skills including graduates and experienced personnel providing additional 2,000 honour level ICT graduate professionals for industry through output from re-skilling opportunities on ICT education programmes and migration.

The World Class Cities Partnership (WCCP) is a network of cities spanning the globe including Boston, Dublin, Barcelona, Hamburg, Guadalajara, Vancouver and others.  Its aim is to bring civic, business and academic leaders together to create change through policy and research.  Work carried out by the WCCP in 2012 showed that while Ireland and Dublin are producing high skilled and much sought after graduates, there is a shortage of talent in Dublin’s key sectors.  For example, in ICT over 55 per cent of positions in the tech sector are filled with talent from abroad.  Dublin’s challenge is therefore to develop, attract and retain the talent of workers in the city region and country.  The development phase will require early intervention and targeted educational and training programmes for emerging and existing workers.  Attraction and retention is materialised by job availability, supply and affordability of housing and quality of living which includes a range a hard and soft factors.

The Green Technology sector is also an area primed for future growth.  It has core needs of business, engineering and ICT skills and application.  With regard to the latter, there is opportunity to explore Dublin’s involvement in the Green Digital Charter and the use of ICT solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of the city region and to increase energy efficiency in line with EU operational objectives.

Online Presence, Trading and the Digital Economy

In 2011 it was estimated by An Post with the City and County Enterprise Boards that up to 40 per cent of Irish businesses and sole traders did not have an online presence. In response, a website through which Irish businesses can apply and receive a web address called Getting Irish Business Online ( was established.  As of May 2012, this initiative has succeeded n getting 10,000 businesses to commence an online presence.

The previously named “-Readiness Rankings” was rebranded as the “Digital Economy Rankings” to reflect the increasing influence of ICT in socio-economic advancement.  These rankings were carried out by IBM and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).  The measurements used point to particular areas of a city or country that needs to develop in order to be digitally prepared and engaged.   The digital economy rankings measure the quality of a country’s ICT infrastructure and the ability of its consumers, businesses and Governments to use ICT to their benefit.  A wide range of criteria was used to measure the quality of the digital economy including connectivity, business environment, legal environment, Government policy and vision, and consumer and business adoption.  Sweden, Denmark and the US took the top three spots globally.  Ireland moved up one place from 18th to 17th in 2010.

Moreover, CSO Information Statistics from 2012 show that only 23 per cent of Irish SMEs are selling on-line, with just over half using eCommerce to make some purchases.  According to the Action Plan for Jobs 2013, “there is a market failure in terms of businesses appreciating the value of trading and retailing on-line in the changing consumer environment and in understanding what they need to do to adapt.”  McKinsey estimated in 2011 in their report “Internet Matters”, that SMEs who adopt internet trade grow twice as fast and export twice as much when compared to non-adopting businesses.  Furthermore, the EU Digital Scorecard 2012 has forecast that by 2015, 9 out of 10 jobs will require e-Skills.

Nonetheless, considering an ESRI estimate that by 2025 over 70% of exports will be traded services, without intervention there is a risk of Ireland and Dublin falling behind and losing global competitiveness and attractiveness.  The Your Dublin Your Voice resource of Dublin City Council indicated that 65 per cent of respondents found it difficult to find an Irish provider when searching online for goods or services.

The UPC Digital Business Index shows that 3 in 10 Irish businesses are ‘Digital Leaders’, while 1 in 7 are ‘Digital Laggards’; with the balance falling into the category of ‘Digital Followers’. This index also shows strong digital adoption by Irish businesses who have embraced the digital era. As of 2012:

  • One quarter of employees (26%) on average are provided with standard mobile phones by their employers
  • Over one third (36%) are provided with Smartphone’s
  • The same proportion is provided with laptops by their employers
  • 1 in 7 (14%) are provided with tablet/iPad devices
  • Three quarters (76%) of employees have access to the Internet at work
  • 7 in 10 businesses allow their staff to use the Internet for personal purposes

CSO Information Society Statistics show that from 2009 to 2012 there has been notable uptake in internet usage and website development across the main sectors of the Irish economy.

Sector Usage % 2009 % 2012
Manufacturing (C) Enterprises using the internet (%) 97 98
Enterprises having a website or homepage (%) 76 86
Construction Enterprises using the internet (%) 96 93
Enterprises having a website or homepage (%) 58 65
Table 1: Enterprises in the Manufacturing Sectors Using the Internet of Having a Website (CSO, 2012)

Nonetheless, in the accommodation and food service sector, internet usage and website ownership was relatively low in 2012 with only 66 per cent of enterprises having a website or homepage, though this was an increase of 12 per cent on 2009 figures.  Similarly, in the professional and scientific sectors 86 per cent of enterprises had a website or homepage in 2012.  In 2009 the figure for this high skilled sector was only 76 per cent.

Sector Usage % 2009 % 2012
Accommodation and food service activities (I) Enterprises using the internet (%) 97 98
Enterprises having a website or homepage (%) 76 86
Information & communication (J) Enterprises using the internet (%) 96 93
Enterprises having a website or homepage (%) 58 65
Professional, scientific and technical activities Enterprises using the internet (%) 99 99
Enterprises having a website or homepage (%) 76 86
Table 2: Enterprises from selected Services sectors using the Internet or Having a Website (CSO, 2012)

As part of its enterprise and digital business remit, the Dublin local authorities have an opportunity to continue the work of the Enterprise Boards (LEO’s), the Digital Hub and others to get business online, to work within existing initiatives to share resources and create the best practice to get more business online and to stimulate local economies through digital interaction and promotion.

In “The Social Economy” report published by McKinsey Global Institute, it was estimated that in 2012, 90 per cent of businesses using social technologies report a business benefit from them.  Social technologies were also estimated to contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion dollars to the sectors of retail, advanced manufacturing; consumer packaged goods and professional services in 2012 and increased productivity by 20-25% (McKinsey Global Institute, 2012).

Social networking is a popular and growing online activity highlighted by recent research carried out by Dublin City Council and shown in the UPC Digital Index Report.   The growth of the social media resource, Facebook continues unabated with over 1 billion profiles in 2012.  Twitter and LinkedIn exhibit similar growth patterns.

Ireland’s and Dublin’s broadband infrastructure is in a continual state of catch-up

While market forces are driving a more competitive market, the cost and speed of Ireland’s and Dublin’s broadband lags behind international competitors.

Forfás (2011) in its report, Ireland’s Advanced Broadband Performance and Policy Priorities states that in order to enable Ireland’s existing and emerging sectors to exploit future growth opportunities, to allow SMEs to compete in global markets and to attract FDI there is a need for, at least 100 Mbps symmetrical (upload and download) broadband speeds.

Similarly, 9 out of 10 SMEs surveyed by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) believe that the Internet has had a positive influence on their company in terms of better communications, time savings, productivity gains and increased sales.  Provision of quality high speed broadband across Ireland should ensure that such opportunities are fully harnessed and that Ireland reaps the benefits of a truly digital economy (National Broadband Plan, 2012).

Home broadband speeds in Ireland and Dublin compare poorly in international terms according to NetIndex (April 18th 2013).  This index collates millions of speed test results and is a reliable, up to date indicator of broadband capability. Table 3 shows Ireland’s position globally.  This ranking does not compare favourably with Ireland’s general global position as a place to invest or as a place to live.

Rank Country Speed Rank Country Speed
1 Hong Kong 44.03 Mbps 11 Switzerland 30.57 Mbps
2 Singapore 39.65 Mbps 12 Sweden 29.32 Mbps
3 Lithuania 38.30 Mbps 13 Romania 28.56 Mbps
4 Andorra 35.29 Mbps 14 Latvia 27.36 Mbps
5 South Korea 34.22 Mbps 15 Iceland 27.20 Mbps
6 Taiwan 33.12 Mbps 16 Bulgaria 26.51 Mbps
7 Luxembourg 33.07 Mbps 17 Denmark 25.34 Mbps
8 Macau 32.20 Mbps 18 Belgium 24.46 Mbps
9 Netherlands 31.00 Mbps 19 Rep. of Moldova 23.38 Mbps
10 Japan 30.85 Mbps 20 Portugal 22.69Mbps
56 Ireland 11.00 Mbps (By Ookla)

Table 3: Ireland’s Broadband Performance (Download Speed Only) Globally
Rank Country Speed Rank Country Speed
1 Lithuania 38.30 Mbps 11 Finland 20.97 Mbps
2 Luxembourg 33.07 Mbps 12 United Kingdom 20.36 Mbps
3 Netherlands 31.00 Mbps 13 Germany 19.23 Mbps
4 Sweden 29.32 Mbps 14 Malta 18.58 Mbps
5 Romania 28.56 Mbps 15 CzechRepublic 17.87 Mbps
6 Latvia 27.36 Mbps 16 Estonia 17.81 Mbps
7 Bulgaria 26.51 Mbps 17 Hungary 17.53 Mbps
8 Denmark 25.34 Mbps 18 France 17.19 Mbps
9 Belgium 24.46 Mbps 19 Slovakia 15.36 Mbps
10 Portugal 22.69 Mbps 20 Austria 15.06 Mbps
24 Ireland 11.00 Mbps (By Ookla)
Table 4: Ireland’s Household Broadband Performance (Download Speed) within the EU

Within the EU, Ireland has one of the slowest download speeds.  Dublin ranks poorly with speeds almost three times slower than Vilnius, Hong Kong and Singapore (Table 5).  Upload speeds which are important to creative and digital industries in particular, show that Dublin an average upload speeds of 3.4 Mbps.  This compares to 45 Mbps in Vilnius; 32 Mbps in Hong Kong; 21 Mbps in Singapore; and 20 Mbps in Moscow.

Provision of fibre optic cable has been described as “electrification for the 21st Century” by Susan Crawford, former Special Assistant on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy to the Obama and Bush administrations.  Evidently, broadband infrastructure is critical for any Smart city region and while Dublin and Ireland continue to lag behind in this area, competitiveness may be undermined.

Rank City Speed Rank City Speed
1 Vilnius, LT 50.22 Mbps 11 Macau, MO 31.83 Mbps
2 Central District, HK 47.27 Mbps 12 Cluj-Napoca, RO 31.02 Mbps
3 Singapore, SG 41.27 Mbps 13 Göteborg, SE 30.67 Mbps
4 Kaunas, LT 36.28 Mbps 14 Amsterdam, NL 30.41 Mbps
5 Taipei, TW 36.08 Mbps 15 Bucharest, RO 30.41 Mbps
6 Seoul, KR 35.22 Mbps 16 Riga, LV 30.34 Mbps
7 Paris, FR 34.11 Mbps 17 Brasov, RO 30.34 Mbps
8 Kowloon, HK 33.96 Mbps 18 Ryazan, RU 29.93 Mbps
9 Constanta, RO 33.57 Mbps 19 Iasi, RO 29.79 Mbps
10 Sofia, BG 33.15 Mbps 20 Lisbon, PT 29.67 Mbps
Dublin is not ranked within the top 30 cities and has an average speed of 17.01 Mbps (By Ookla)
Table 5: Dublin’s Broadband Performance (Download Speed Only) Globally

Big Data and the Metropolitan City

Big data constitutes all the data we create collectively which pertains to the city ecosystem and the ecosystems to which it is connected.  It includes data on its infrastructure, services, processes, citizens and is essentially cellular in nature.  Some 90 per cent of the data in the world today has been created in the last 2 years alone[1].  This data explosion is the result of exponential increase in

data users, increased levels of sensing, improvements in technology, social media use and is available in various forms.  These forms include text, sensor, audio, visual, log files and more.  ‘Big Data’ is a sector currently growing at up to 40% per annum according to the Department of Enterprise, Jobs & Innovation. In an announcement made in May 2013, the Department states that big data is to be granted a share of €6.9 million Euro’s of SFI funding.

In terms of city management these data can make the impossible possible; they improve how systems are managed and create new and better ways of doing things and much more.  These data will not necessarily always be reliable and could potentially be unstructured but the collation, analysis, combination and manipulation of all these various data realises potential to make things work better.  It is estimated that by 2015, 4.4 million IT jobs will be created globally to support Big Data.

It is incumbent on the Leadership Forum of the Masterplan to put in place the structures that will allow the quadruple helix of citizen, business, academia and Government to work together to maximise the potential of these data.

The mining process of the Digital Revolution must be rooted in an ethos of ‘benefit for all’ and harm to none.  Part of this process will be cyber security so that businesses and consumers will have the confidence to use technologies.  In this regard, adopting the appropriate framework to ensure that security and privacy are guaranteed is central to driving an increase in innovation and economic growth in this area.

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion is about access; making online technology available to everyone and ensuring that every individual in Dublin is able to access low cost, convenient computing and Internet technology. It is also about skills, ensuring that individuals have the ability to interact with relevant technology and are digitally literate for any job. Digital inclusion is often affected by the lack of equal access to services.

Ireland’s latest scorecard from the EU Commission published for 2012 shows significant improvements in levels of internet usage and digital engagement. The level of regular internet usage has increased 8 percent since 2010 and is now above the EU average,  those who have never used the internet has decreased by 6 percent and increase of internet use by disadvantaged people by 10 percent. However, internet use in Ireland is strongly skewed towards the young (CSO, Use of Computers in Households, December 2012). There is a strong correlation between the wider problems of poverty and social exclusion and the problem of attaining digital inclusion for all, for example within groups such as older people, people with a disability, people with literacy difficulties, people in lower income groups, and people who are socially isolated.

In terms of digital engagement, social media has both positive and negative effects. A positive effect is that it can improve how society interacts. In the recent Your Dublin, Your Voice Survey ‘Making Dublin Digital’, 46 per cent of respondents said they now used social media to communicate with friends and family daily. Social media allows individuals to develop social and technical skills to function in today’s society.


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