September 24, 2010
The Digital Northern Ireland 2020 initiative is about to launch into its next phase. Whilst the blog has been quiet over the summer period, work on the project on a number of levels has continued in preparation for the engagement phase which starts this autumn.
Prior to the summer period, with financial assistance from invest Northern Ireland who have played a critically positive role in helping the initiative gain momentum, a study report was completed. It identified a number of target activity areas which, when combined, will enable Northern Ireland to realise the full potential of the digital platform to achieve economic and social uplift and growth. The potential of a high speed fully accessible broadband enabled digital platform is recognised at a global level as a key enabler of growth. On Sunday 19th September, the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union accepted the recommendations of the UN Global Broadband Commission (www.broadbandcommission.org ) which has representation from many of the leading corporations, academic institutions and international organisations. And earlier this year the European Commission published a key policy document A Digital Agenda for Europe.
Both of these documents highlight the benefits of access to a digital platform and the importance of taking a proactive approach to ensuring these opportunities are fully realised. The DNI2020 programme is engaged with both of these activities, and indeed at this stage the work we have undertaken over the past months, means our preparation is ahead of the game which makes the potential of the next phase of the initiative even more exciting, as agility will allow us to exploit this advantage.
Over the past few months a small set of initial activities have been progressing. Of note is the work of Ilex on the Derry Regeneration initiative, where the digital agenda is a key integrated part of the overall plan, which was launched last week. Work is also in hand in Coleraine and some parts of Belfast, and in the action phase the intention is to generate actionable digital strategies for all key urban centres (this follows the well known principle of programme management – what gets planned is what gets done). Several Town Hall sessions have been held and more will be planned in the coming months.
Whilst having a core platform is of significant benefit, it is only when we have an efficient and effective environment which allows individuals and businesses to gain easy access to the platform, that the full benefit will become a reality. Several trial projects are underway with the goal of making it easy both for the customers and the suppliers to ask for and to deliver services which exploit to the hilt the platform.
A trial Pathfinder project has been kicked off in the Digital Media area, and its progress has confirmed the real benefits of taking the proactive approach which the DNI2020 initiative is all about. In addition discussions are underway on a number of potential investments which will enhance the capability of the platform.
Involvement in international initiatives and organisations over the past year has confirmed to me the real potential we have here in Northern Ireland, to leap frog into a position of leadership over the next two years. Whilst we will never be the biggest Digital Economy on the planet, what we intend to do is create the conditions and capability where we are seen as being the preferred pace to create Knowledge Economy enterprises. An important part of these will be to ensure that the benefits of the Digital Northern Ireland will be available to all sections of community, particularly he young, old, inform and vulnerable. The DNI2020 Action pan proposal has social inclusion as a key element of its goals.
So whilst it has been a quiet summer on the airwaves, the DNI2020 programme has been beavering away at the local and international level to create the conditions for the launch of the Action part of the initiative. At the end of the day, this will only work if it becomes an initiative with wide support and involvement across all sectors, business and social, of Northern Ireland. To this end the intent is to create as widespread a net of involvement and participation as possible.
I will finish with the phrase which appears on Fat Face clothing, which I think summarises very well what we are about.
It is never too late to be what you could have been