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The Irish Software Economy

A very pleasant dinner last night at the Irish Embassy in London, hosted by Ambassador Daithi O’Ceallaigh and the country’s Minister for International Trade, Michael Ahern T.D.

Ireland, the “Celtic Tiger Economy”, Ahern tells me, exports £1 billion of IT goods annually with a further £240 million of services, in 2004, up 8% on the year before. Of course, one of Ireland’s principal trade partners is the UK, with a balanced two-way trade of £20 billion and an overall IT spend of £74 billion, which Irish companies would like a share of, in areas like our National Programme for IT.

Ireland is a member of the “Three I’s Club”, India, Israel and Ireland, each one wishing to be a significant global player in the IT development, production and service sectors and Ireland happens to be the largest exporter of software in the world, because so many large companies base their European production operations in the country.

I’m speaking at the Irish Software Association’s annual conference next week and I’ll be warning that while Ireland has made remarkable achievements in IT, complacency is a real danger, as is the country’s reliance on packaged software production from multi-national companies that can be swiftly switched to the next tax-friendly member of the European Union and beyond. There’s a huge amount for Ireland to be proud of in its record of achievement and employment to date but like the UK, its government has to grasp the implicit challenge in infrastructure, investment and education that lies behind any aspiration towards becoming a true knowledge economy and not simply “A software sweatshop” a one of my dinner companions from a Dublin company remarked at dinner.


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