Northern Ireland Technology Sector must reinvent itself quickly for next decade

| December 12, 2017

eir BusinessNIeir Business NI has challenged the Northern Ireland (NI) private and public sectors to reinvent themselves in order to take advantage of the fast-changing global knowledge economy and opportunities presented by new technologies, or risk being left behind. This challenge comes as the company unveils customer research and industry analysis of the future economic and technology landscape in conjunction with the Ulster University at its 10th anniversary celebrations.

Speaking at a recent event to mark a decade of supporting public and private sector innovation and reform in Northern Ireland, Darren Lemon, General Manager, eir Business NI said; “Northern Ireland has made great strides in the development of a Knowledge Economy over the last decade, but the pace of change and advent of new technologies globally means we must move more quickly than we did previously to reinvent our offering, or risk being left behind.”

According to eir’s customer research and analysis by the Ulster University, two thirds (67%) believe the pace of technology adoption will increase in the next decade while at the same time we will witness a significant shift away from traditional IT and Software jobs – an area where we are currently strong – to new and emerging technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), automation, big data and mobility solutions.  The increased pace of change also brings with it a number of challenges with security concerns (66%), the availability of ICT skills (59%) and budget requirements (52%) ranked as the top 3.

This direction of travel presents both a challenge and opportunity for the NI economy, Mr Lemon explained; “Given the pervasive and transformative nature of these new technologies across all business sectors and their exponential growth in such a short period of time, we need all partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors, in education, business and government to deliver strategies which react to these global changes and to do so rapidly. Against this backdrop, the knowledge economy is ‘the economy of the future’ and NI needs to grab the opportunities presented with both hands or risk further economic stagnation and isolation. This will require a sense of common purpose, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, speed and agility and a lot more collaboration between all interested parties.

At eir, as we reflect on 10 years operating in NI and look towards the next 10 years, we are committed to helping drive Northern Ireland forward and place it at the forefront of the digital age. We have had a positive impact on business telecommunications here over the past 10 years by making it a more competitive marketplace. We’ve achieved that by investing £40m in our network and our high-value skills and by creating a solid and extensive local supply chain.  We look forward to continuing our work with partners in government and across sectors to deliver the necessary change in pace and direction of technology and innovation, to ensure a bright economic future here.”

 Tim Brundle, Director of Research and Impact at Ulster University who also presented at the event added; “Given the new megatrends emerging in global markets around AI, automation and big data, the pace of technology adoption here in Northern Ireland needs to increase over the next 10 years as companies try and stay competitive and build export markets.

“Some of the signs are good in that we have been building an entrepreneurial eco-system here including doubling the number of tech start-ups in the last 10 years. Recent evidence from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) points to an above UK average investment in Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD) R&D for the first time. While we are already developing interesting clusters in data analytics, cybersecurity and the creative industries we need to have an overarching strategy to deliver the necessary skills and talent, funding and other government support to fast-track these areas.

“Brexit continues to dominate the headlines here and while it is important, we should not lose sight of the even bigger transformational change that is happening across the world – driven by new technologies and innovation. Regardless of what Brexit ultimately brings we need to upskill and focus on the global opportunities offered by these new technologies.”

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