Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here with you today to open the 3rd Cloud Computing Summit.
It is always good to be here in Croke Park although obviously my preference would have been to be here supporting my county at a different event on Sunday week!Ireland’s Economic Outlook
As you’re all aware Ireland has faced significant challenges in recent years. While we still have plenty of work to do I firmly believe that our economic prospects remain very positive.
Our real economy is strong.
After three years of contraction the economy is now returning to growth and we expect that growth to continue at a steady pace.
Our exports continue to perform strongly with a 7% increase recorded in the first quarter of this year. A similar increase is forecast for the year as a whole.
Crucially, our balance of payments is now in surplus, proving the strength of our economic sustainability.
Our competitiveness has improved significantly. Business costs have fallen across the economy. We aim to do more.
International market sentiment is improving. The situation with our banking sector has stabilised with restructuring substantially underway with international approval.
We have secured reduced interest rates under the EU/IMF Programme which greatly increases our debt sustainability prospects.
And we still have the long-standing Irish strengths that have served us well over many years:
- a young and well educated workforce,
- growing levels of R&D activity,
- an attractive corporate tax regime that will be maintained, and
- a hub of internationally trading businesses including an FDI record which is envied worldwide and rightly so.
Over the coming months and years this Government will continue to make the decisions necessary to address the fiscal and unemployment problems facing the State.
For all these reasons I believe we are definitely on the path to recovery. Step by step, decision by decision, we are moving forward.
There is a Chinese saying “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”.
And this Government has no intention of standing still.Growth in a small open economy
We know from the 1990s that a small open economy like Ireland’s can sustain higher levels of growth than large economies.
This is achieved by establishing strong competitive advantage in a few enterprise sectors – and capturing a large share of the European or global market in those sectors.
The challenge is to identify these areas of opportunity.
And then use all our tax, regulatory, education and enterprise supports to make Ireland the best place to locate a business in that sector.
In the Programme for Government we identify cloud computing as one of these opportunities.Cloud Computing
A recent report commissioned by Microsoft estimates that cloud computing could be worth €9.5billion to the Irish economy, employing up to 9,000 people.
We have already made significant progress in becoming a global cloud centre of excellence – based on our strengths in software, manufacturing and services, and the skilled workforce we have at our disposal.
Our tax regime supports the development of cloud activities alongside our significant State-backed investment in R&D.
Ireland already has significant Data Centre and Data Hosting capacity and capability.
We also have a modern and attractive legislative framework, regarded as one of the most advanced in Europe.
As a result, a formidable cluster of cloud-related activities is emerging in Ireland amongst the subsidiaries of the world’s leading ICT companies such as IBM, HP, Microsoft, Dell and Salesforce.com.
For example, I visited HP in Galway on Tuesday, where they are expanding their cloud services.Benefits
The Government recognises the opportunities cloud computing presents. I talked about it a lot during the recent general election. I am convinced of the many clear benefits it offers.
- It can reduce the IT costs of Irish businesses and support start ups;
- Cloud computing can assist in driving innovation and productivity in our hub of international and Irish tech companies and,
- Significantly, cloud computing can also reduce the costs of Government and improve the quality of public services.
This is particularly relevant at the current time when we are seeking to do more with fewer resources.
I know that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is engaged in a programme of research on cloud computing. This includes trials with a variety of companies, many of whom are here today.
The aim of the trials is to identify solutions which work well in the public service, while also being cost effective.
I want to see the Irish public service leading the way in use of Government cloud computing and demonstrating to our European neighbours it can be done and should be invested in, using the knowledge acquired by Irish based companies.
In addition, as part of our Jobs Initiative in May, my colleague Richard Bruton announced a €5million Applied Research Centre in Cloud computing.
This Research Centre will be industry-led, connecting both multinationals and Irish companies with researchers from Universities and Research Agencies.
Many of you will have been consulted already regarding the research themes for the centre.
I’m confident that these initiatives that we are putting in place will allow us to take advantage of the opportunity cloud computing offers for Ireland.Challenges
We must also recognise that there are challenges that must be met, as there are when embracing any new technology.
I’m referring in particular to issues such as data protection and security, performance and reliability, and the structure of commercial models.
I know that many of these issues are on your agenda for today – and the Government wants to work with industry to identify solutions.
That is why Minister Bruton has established a Cloud Computing Implementation Group.
Its task is to address these issues comprehensively, and help position Ireland to be a leader in the sector.
This Group is actively looking for ideas from industry – and will report before the end of the year.Conclusion
If you leave here today with only one message, be it that this Government, at the highest levels, is taking the development of the cloud computing industry very seriously and is acting accordingly.
We need to be ambitious for Ireland – by identifying and growing new enterprise sectors.
I believe there is an opportunity to make Ireland a leading location for cloud computing services – creating new businesses and jobs.
I am sure today’s discussions will help this process, whether in the public or private sectors.
I look forward to hearing of the outcome of these deliberations and wish you an enjoyable and successful Summit.