My address to the first All Ireland Smart Cities forum which took place in Croke Park Conference Centre on Wednesday, 13th September.
“Good morning, I’m delighted to be here today. It gives me great pleasure to open, along with Dr. McCormick, the first All Ireland Smart Cities Forum.
As Minister with responsibility for Digital Development, I welcome the opportunity to be part of the sharing of information that is taking place here today.
The increasing use of digital technologies is impacting on every aspect of our lives: from transport, to education, to leisure and entertainment, to health services and beyond. And this trend is going to continue and will likely intensify. The increasing use of digital technologies is impacting on everyone – on individuals, on families, on businesses, on community and sports organisation, on Government itself.
Government is committed to transparent, collaborative engagement both with citizens and businesses, and use of digitisation and technology to continuously improve public services. The new eGovernment Strategy published this year sets out a vision to improve the delivery of whole-of-Government projects, expand shared services to increase efficiencies, and share data.
We need to continue to enhance the competitiveness of our cities, and build on existing smart projects. We also need to go beyond our cities and recognise the benefits that the smart agenda can bring to our regions because this is not and cannot solely be about cities such as Dublin and Belfast.
Last week in Galway I had the privilege of attending and speaking at Smart Places Workshop at the Insight Centre at NUIG. The aim of the Smart Places project is to lay the foundations for building a Smart Region in the West and North West of Ireland and involves ten local authorities – Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan – along with the Northern & Western Regional Assembly, NUIG’s INSIGHT Centre and the Western Development Commission.
When I enquired as to what a Smart Region entailed – the answer came. “ A high-tech, intensive and advanced approach connecting people, information, governance and policies using new technologies to create an efficient, clean, energy secure, sustainable, eco-friendly, competitive and innovation region with an enhanced quality of life”. Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked!
But that comprehensive and inclusive mission statement, if you like, is exactly what we are all aiming to do with Smart Cities. And that message of inclusivity is central.
Core Elements of Smart Cities
Of the core elements involved in the creation of a Smart City, PEOPLE is the first along with PROCESS, DATA and THINGS.
With PEOPLE it’s about connecting people in more relevant and valuable ways. We need to make sure that the overall concept of a Smart City is clearly defined and recognisable, not some intangible concept. After all what are cities without their citizens?
We need to make sure that every person is included, that every person benefits from the clear potential and indeed some of the smart initiatives – whether its transport services, communication services, or infrastructure – already available.
And it is very important for the development of Smart Cities or Smart Regions that the benefits that are available are understood and recognised. We can easily forget innovations and then take them for granted without appreciating the technology that makes them possible and part of our everyday lives.
Examples include City Bikes, the Leap Card, the Real Time Passenger Information at bus stops and railway stations, the Park by Text app, or even just the wealth of information on local and national Government and services that’s instantly available and to which access is enhanced through technology.
Another of the core elements are THINGS – the devices and objected connect to the Internet which can make life easier and better. These THINGS, however, are dependent on the availability of infrastructure – for how can one be included if the infrastructure is not available?
Infrastructure to deliver better connected services is vital to our continued economic growth, supporting businesses and enhancing our communities.
This Government sees high quality, high-speed broadband as critically important for schools, businesses and communities right across Ireland. Delivering the National Broadband Plan is therefore a top priority for this Government.
Providing reliable high-speed broadband throughout the country will support employment in all sectors and complement the suite of regional enterprise initiatives.
High-speed broadband will enable the formation of new enterprises which would previously have been restricted by a lack of access to reliable broadband.
Once available, high-speed broadband opens up a wealth of opportunities for business, farmers, schools and even local authorities. But, we need to position ourselves now to realise the future benefits. That is why we are working with local authorities to assess their level of readiness for a digital future and assist them in developing local digital strategies; strategies that are uniquely tailored to each local authority.
And the local digital strategies will be complemented by the National Digital Strategy which I and my officials are currently working on.
Providing quality broadband and mobile voice services to rural areas will help close the urban-rural divide and provide important support for rurally-based industries and communities.
Ireland is well positioned to take advantage of our already strong position in the Smart agenda, and to build upon progress made over the last few years. I look forward to hearing the outcomes of this, the first All Ireland Smart Cities Forum.”