June 11, 2010
The past weeks have been spent engaging with people and groups across all of the areas which could be impacted by the potential of Northern Ireland’s Digital Platform. The results of this work have been compiled into a short report which will be published in the weeks ahead. As a result of various investments by the communications companies, and joint initiatives between government and Hibernian and BT, Northern Ireland has a rich core high speed digital capability which if ambitiously exploited will lead to significant transformation in both economic social activity.
To realise this, it will be critical to engage directly with people at the community level, both in the business areas and also community services areas. To start this process, we had a Town hall session in Coleraine which was attended by upwards of 140 local people in which we discussed the potential of the platform to local businesses. We have also been working with a small set of specific areas, to test out the process of connecting up business parks, getting increased access capability through to community service projects and ways of accelerating the availability of high speed access to significant parts of the residential population.
The feedback has been very positive, and this has been confirmed in discussion with people overseas and potential investors and local businesses. The next step is to turn this potential into real benefit. The report referred to above will set out proposal for how to do this and also a top level plan of the action steps necessary if we are to transform Northern Ireland into one of the world’s leading knowledge economies over the coming years.
This is no idle ambition – we do have the potential to extend the benefits of the digital platform, to the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland. In the weeks ahead the plan is to complete a set of briefings, continue progress in areas such as Digital Content, ICT and Community Services, develop strategies to accelerate providing people with the skills to benefit from this opportunity in their lives, deliver initial high speed connections and start engaging with potential new investors, and to resource and initiate the follow on plan to the initial work already underway.