The Next Leap

COMPETITIVE IRELAND IN THE DIGITAL ERA

TREND 2: “Total Commerce”

with 3 comments

A number of stakeholders emphasised the opportunity for Ireland to transition to a new phase of economic competitiveness. This national commercial renaissance – in which every citizen can be engaged through a laptop – is referred to in this report as “Total Commerce”. This is intentionally evocative of the “total war” era in the last century when industrial states harnessed their entire citizenry in the war effort. Underlying the stakeholders’ inputs was an understanding of the fundamental changes currently being brought about by the Internet, which might usefully be explained here. Change is manifesting in three cardinal areas:

First, information is being democratised. The overwhelming majority of the globe’s top 50 most popular Internet websites is reliant on user-generated content, and Wikipedia is the world’s most widely consulted encyclopaedia.

Second, the Internet is undercutting established distribution channels, and negating Ireland’s geographic disadvantage. The Web gives any individual at any location direct access to remote niche markets. By connecting prospective providers and customers directly, it neutralises the advantage of large companies who have built expensive distribution channels.

Third, despite gaining popularity as recently as the mid-1990s, the impact of the Internet is now so profound that it is beginning to revolutionise not only commerce, but politics too. The shift in candidate financing in US politics (tested in the Dean campaign of 2004, and matured in the Obama campaign of 2008) illustrates the new importance of the many but small contributors at the expense of established networks of the few but large donors.

This revolution in information and distribution represents a significant opportunity for Ireland. Perhaps most profound is that the smallest unit of commercially viable creativity with global reach has been dramatically reduced. As a number of stakeholders noted, this could herald a new era of entrepreneurial activity across Ireland, enabling tiny creative operations to produce innovations and sell services and products to remote niche markets. While Dublin is Ireland’s major cluster for these activities, the extension of broadband connectivity outside of urban centres in Ireland has enabled hundreds of new micro-businesses to begin to provide services over the Internet.

Recent developments on the Internet have also lowered the bar for entry to the software and creative industries by providing existing platforms with remote data centre capacity that reduce the expense of starting from scratch. An example is the popular social network site Facebook, on which users can now create and sell simple services. Provided the educational and infrastructural requirements are in place, more and more micro-entrepreneurs, relying on fewer resources, and acting at a younger age, will introduce commercially viable innovations and content from Ireland to the global market. Moreover, a digitally conversant public, capable of engaging in a global market of niche demands, could help keep the local market buoyant during periods of downturn.

At the same time, stakeholders active in large software and research organisations observed new opportunities to grow indigenous firms to a global scale. At both micro and macro levels, there was a consistent view among stakeholders that Ireland must find an optimal means of harnessing the creativity of the public across the nation.

Continue to Options for Government Action in “Total Commerce”

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Written by johnnyryan

13/12/2008 at 01:38

3 Responses

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  1. Important points about the changing world (and Irish venture Changing Worlds’ recent news a good example of this trend) but a taste of reality needs to be injected. The Irish are using e-commerce more but are behind on m-commerce, and the laptop-per-person – or even per household – is a long way off.

    Yes, Facebook, and even, more recently, pro-network LinkedIn, allow applications to be made and traded. But how many make money? And does Ireland have the supports? I asked a senior Enterprise Ireland guy about Bebo and Facebook at a reception in February, and he only knew them vageuly as something the kids used. Check LinkedIn for Irish Enterprise Bodies, Academics and Public Servants. Don’t worry, you will *not* be overwhelmed by the results.

    We need something, more than the Cabinet – almost an anti-incentive – to stimulate general usage. True e-government is probably it. We can learn from Estonia, Singapore, Australia and others. But please, no trips full of tubby councillors. Borrow – a sort of national service – and send some real pros, from the big telecoms and IT vendors, and consultancies.

    R Almatev

    18/12/2008 at 22:42

  2. Since you mentioned Estonia as an example, see my interview with President Ilves on these very subjects when he visited the IIEA earlier in 2008
    pt 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIK4gcT115Q
    pt 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD8YTMTtQtc

    johnnyryan

    18/12/2008 at 22:46

  3. The point about user-generated content is important, and projects like Wikipedia are wonderful, and Ireland should certainly work to grow national participation, internally and projecting outwards. But we also need to remember that most of the world’s knowledge, despite some hype, is not on the internet, and nor is most of the revenue-generating capacity. In particular, most academic research, and even more so, industry-led R&D, is at best partially visible. We need to work on shared-creation content, but also to lever this into business. At a broader level, the Web is certainly opening powerful new potential for commerce, politics and other sectors, but Ireland is not yet a strong beneficiary of this. And on the distribution issue, barriers are reduced but not gone: if in doubt, have a look at how many merchants on online stores, even famous eBay, only want to deal with people in their geography (because of postal concerns, ignorance, impatience…). But I agree re. the micro-business concept (as long as we remember that a majority of all new businesses do fail, and there is no shame in this, and State agencies and banks should not hold it against people).

    J Doyle

    20/12/2008 at 11:40


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