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Digital Ireland

What’s good about “good” Friday?  It’s a day off to catch up.  It’s a day to read yesterday’s newspaper. It’s a good day.

Yesterday’s Indo carried one of their regular Digital Ireland supplements.  Today, over a nice coffee in a nice coffee shop (with free wireless connectivity!) I get to sit down and read it. It’s done me the world of good (see, there’s that “good” again).  I genuinely feel more confident that Ireland can pull itself out of current difficulties.  Here are a few of the more interesting elements –

  • “Ireland is rapidly becoming the “Internet capital of Europe”.  John Kennedy reminds us that we are now home to the international HQ of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ebay.  Many are now expanding their operations here. Yes, there is concern that we don’t have the communications infrastructure to support this as much as we might like but progress is being made.  E-Thursday (page 6 of the business supplement of the Indo) carries an interview with Eircom and its plans for 8Mbps for one million users by the end of the year.
  • Mobile innovation continues to evolve.  There are a quarter of a million iPhones in the country. That’s a lot of smart phones and doesn’t even include the smartphones of Nokia, Samsung and others.  Lots of potential for interesting apps.
  • Facebook claims to have 1.4 million users in Ireland.  That’s one third the population, give or take.  Yes, I facebook (you can always judge the popularity of something by its “verb”alisation).  Am I bothered by the fact that 1 in 4 schoolkids have hacked its others’ facebook accounts?  Answer = not really.  I’m reasonably choosy about who my friends are. I don’t put anything personal up there. If I want to say something confidential I do so more privately. Facebook is a really powerful way of keeping up with what’s going on with friends, particularly those I might risk losing touch with otherwise.
  • Finding information remains the number one priority of net surfers (47% of respondents), with interaction and communication coming in second (32% of those surveyed).  These are from a UK study and I Imagine Irish statistics would likely be similar. Facebook and Twitter fit both requirements very nicely. Is it any wonder then that more and more commercial organisations are embracing them?  The wonder is that there is still so much opposition in some quarters. Page 2 has an interesting account of how Lincolnshire police are using social media (facilitated by Dublin software organisation pTools) to police their jurisdiction.
  • In the online world your presence is only as good as your website permits it to be.  Despite well over a decade of good practice building, web design continues to be a problem.  “Vanity Publishing” is the term used – your website screams about how good your designers are at animation, how your CEO has perfected the beaming smile, how your navigation is clear as mud. The problem is that good web design is subjective. One person’s navigation minefield is another’s well sign-posted routeway.  Web design needs to be done with a specific target audience in mind. If your potential customers hate your flash intros you have a problem. If they find them quirky and fun then flash it is.
  • www.digital21.ie is well worth checking out and merits an significance portion of the supplement. There is a strong incentive to change mindsets and realise that concrete efforts must be made to “roll up our sleeves and start innovating”.  Concrete examples are given, most notably the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC). They have recently announced their LaunchPad, an incubation space for start-ups, complete with expert mentoring and advising. Successful projects quoted seem to revolve around mobile apps, and there seems to be a strong commercial aspect to most of the ongoing projects.
  • Digital21 and all the innovative ideas coming through the supplement emphasise the importance of an educated workforce.  Key actions are encouraging science and honours maths at leaving cert level.  The reality in education is very different. More and more schools are dropping science subjects in a necessary reaction to education cut-backs. The leaving cert will continue to be a ‘points’ race with little emphasis on content or any depth of thought on that content unless it can be radically over-hauled. Efforts at Digital Ireland need the support of other aspects of the Irish economy if they are to succeed.
  • Page 5 of the supplement is devoted to the viewpoints of “Ireland’s ICT leaders”.  Of the 10 “leaders” only 1 is female. The entire supplement carries a total of 42 mugshots, only 5 of which are women.  Technology continues to be a male-dominated arena.  Why is that? Why is technology, like gangster movies, seen as the preserve of the male?  Are there still nerd associations?   A lack of female role models in technology doesn’t help (though here’s an exception).

There you go, folks, nothing from me for ages, and then you get 839 words in one shot. It really is a good Friday.

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An example of the Wiki way

Isn’t the internet just great. It really is a power-to-the-people tool that allows Joe Soap to get a word in edgeways.

The so-called web 2.0 tools are easy to use and often free meaning that anyone with a laptop and a web connection can partake, and partake we do. A side-effect is that big corporate institutions don’t hold as much sway as they used to. Now we en-masse have the tools to say ‘hang on a minute…’.

A number of years when I was first introduced to Wikis, I thought they were a great idea in theory but too clumsy and awkward to use to take off. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Here’s an example…

At the end of January, the UK Gov published “Digital Britain“, a plan of how they are going to ensure that the UK is a big player in the global digital economy.  Fair enough.

However many people weren’t so keen on it and figured they could do a better job themselves. In the offline world this would have required an investment of time devoted to sheer logistics and phone calls as well as the putting together of their actual report. But a Wiki allows them to do it much more easily and effectively. Their work in progress can be found here.

Not being a Brit I wouldn’t feel right doing a compare and contrast. I just want to say that this is a really great example of what Wikis can be used for as well as allowing citizens a say in Digital Britain. Curious that there is a Gov-run forum inviting any interested and individuals to discuss the issues relating to Digital Britain. I wonder how many of the Wiki people joined in.

Talking about what generation

I came across an interesting item in Weblogg-ed about The Dumbest Generation – a review of Mark Bauerline’s take on how students are not benefiting from the digital world in any way that will make them more discerning, literate, analytical, knowledgeable, etc.

Here’s a copy of my comment –

I’ve been teaching IT in business for almost a dozen years and I believe that the students I see in front of me are getting more and more tech-literate every year. Yes, there are still those who need someone else to set up their Bebo page but they want that Bebo page. What is more interesting is what they do with these tech tools. Increasingly they are reaching outside of their classroom and immediate environment into the wider world, forming attachments with people and (in many cases worthwhile) causes that would be outside their reach if it wasn’t for their tech tools. In my view, to say that students of today aren’t enriched by web2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) is doing them a disservice. It is up to us the teachers and lecturers to reach out to the students “extra-curricular” digital activities and apply / tweak them to the classroom and learning outcomes for our courses. The kids aren’t dumb. If the course content that we want / need to teach them doesn’t grab their attention through traditional means, we need to tune into a toolset that they can relate to. Hello digital media, here we come.