5 November 2015
By Elaine Murphy
4 Days, 71 speakers… 1 inspirational location
Ireland’s first ever National Digital Week has kicked off in Skibbereen, and runs until Saturday.
Estimated to be worth in excess of €2 million to the local economy, the event is attracting people from all over Ireland, who have an interest in digital and the opportunities it will provide for them in the future.
By 2016, estimates suggest over 20% of retail sales in G-20 countries will be made online and 80% of Europeans who use the Internet plan to shop online this year so it is important that businesses across Ireland, including rural areas, recognize the opportunity this presents.
Skibbereen now rivals international cities in terms of its connectivity and ability to reach worldwide audiences with speed and clarity! The joint Vodafone/ESB initiative has enabled Skibbereen to become the first rural hub to receive a massive 1GB (1000Mb) connectivity.
The whole town of Skibbereen, along with delegates of National Digital Week, are, right now, benefitting from this new fibre broadband network, opening up huge possibilities for entrepreneurship which would have been aspirational a few months ago.
Digital technology will negate the conventional disadvantages of working and living outside cities; creating real jobs, real commerce while real people enjoy the superior lifestyle option of living in rural Ireland.
Commenting on how the week is going so far, project director of National Digital Week, Grainne O’Dwyer said, “On day two of four, National Digital Week’s panel of national and international speakers are already sparking ideas and fostering new business ideas that have a real possibility of success. We’re getting a great reaction from the delegates already here, and the mix is extraordinary. We have college lecturers, sales professionals, large and small company owners, entrepreneurs and an eclectic mix of men and women who already work remotely from home and wish to scale up their businesses. This, combined with an enthusiastic gathering of college and second-level students from the area has the town a-buzz on what would have been an ordinary November week!’
The first day of National Digital Week got off to a great start, and was a sell-out. There was a huge turnout from the local and national farming community for the Farming 2030 talks, which looked at how Irish Farming is in the middle of a technological revolution, from self-driving tractors, to self-milking cows, aerial drones to herd sheep, mobile phone apps to alert owners when cows are calving and software that measures how fast grass is growing. Speakers discussed the future of Irish Agriculture and how big data and technology can create a sustainable path for the Irish economy and most importantly spearhead Ireland as a world leader in agricultural digital innovation. Microsoft also announced that they are developing an app for farmers.
Meanwhile students, scientists, and the education sector turned up in their droves for the Education and STEM talks, and Laurence O’Rourke from the European Space agency’s keynote speech on the Rosetta Mission. The importance of digital education and transforming classrooms and teaching with engaging interactive content and technology were high on the agenda. There was also a call to engage students in the development of applications from a young age. The event was attended by nearly 300 students, including Bandon secondary school who are strongly focused on digital education.
Today’s events are centred around Female Entrepreneurship and media. The highly successful Ingrid Vanderveldt of the US -based Empowering a Billion Women by 2020’ is the key note speaker, and she and her team will demonstrate how digital technology has become the enabler for female empowerment, and how Ireland can be a leader in female entrepreneurship. The formal partnership formed between National Digital Week & EBW2020 is another injection of confidence in rural Ireland. Key media personalities will also discuss their digital journeys including journalist and presenter Bibi Baskin, Broadcaster and presenter Norah Casey, and Dee Forbes, President & Managing Director of Discovery Networks.
In a huge coup for the region, an international technology business has also launched its Irish business at National Digital Week today. Myshowcase.com, founded by one of today’s speakers Nancy Cruickshank, is a highly successful and revolutionary beauty retail concept which enables women to have their own stylist business. Nancy is offering the chance for 3 women to walk away with a business in a bag today, complete with all the tools, training, technology and of course, beauty products, required to establish and maintain a successful beauty business.
Tickets can be purchased for individual full day sessions priced from €35 to €65 at www.digitalweek.ie; For further information and details of new speakers follow @DigitalWeekIRL on Twitter #DigitalWeekSkibb.