Thursday, 12 July 2012
Question 7: To ask the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation when the Cloud Computing Implementation Group held its most recent meeting; when he expects to receive proposals from the group for his consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34004/12]
The cloud computing implementation group held its last formal meeting in March 2012 and submitted a report on its work on 14 June 2012. I have asked my Department to prepare targets and measurements based on the report's key findings which will allow us to monitor progress to ensure we maximise the potential of this important area of the ICT sector.
In conducting its work, the group examined the opportunities and challenges presented by cloud computing for both business and government from the following perspectives: the cloud as a source for exports, growth and jobs; the adequacy of key infrastructures; the regulatory environment; the opportunities and benefits for indigenous enterprises; the opportunities for attracting foreign direct investment; and government as a leader and user of the cloud. The group's work was informed by a parallel process of engagement which resulted in the Department convening more than 20 meetings with representative bodies and individual companies in September and October 2011.
Considerable insight and information was gained during the process and this is being examined to assess the best way forward and the practical steps that can be taken to optimise the potential of cloud. In the meantime, a number of other initiatives related to cloud computing are under way, including under the action plan for jobs. These include the €1.2 million initial research programme in the cloud computing technology centre announced in April, which is aimed at helping to make Ireland a world leader in this fast growing area and at making a significant contribution to jobs and economic growth. The initiatives also include the ICT skills action plan, which was launched earlier this year and includes the provision of courses relevant to the skills required for the cloud computing industry. The National Standards Association of Ireland, with the assistance and support of the Irish Internet Association, IIA, has developed the SWiFT 10 guide, which is aimed at businesses of all sizes considering the adoption of cloud computing.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
In addition, the Data Protection Commissioner has placed information on its website which will be useful for businesses moving to the cloud, with an obvious emphasis on the data protection issues related to such a move. I understand the public sector strategy on cloud computing is close to finalisation in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and will be published shortly.
We are all familiar with the Goodbody report and the potential of cloud computing for employment creation. Will the Minister of State ensure the usefulness of cloud computing as a mechanism to reduce costs in the public sector is fully taken into account? The impact of cloud computing on e-learning in schools is very uneven and depends on the extent to which broadband has reached an area. Will the Minister of State ensure this is taken into account? Given that the programme for Government states it is a policy to make Ireland a world leader in cloud computing, which is a very noble aspiration, can we get on with it as quickly as possible?
I agree with everything the Deputy has said. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, is engaging on its usefulness for reducing costs in the public sector and there is much concentration on this in the wider public sector. Membership of the group varies from people involved in industry to those in the Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We all realise its value and we know who in industry operates in this sphere, for example EMC in my area. There is a strong sense the cloud computing strategy can set new targets for investment in digital media and the Internet when one considers existing opportunities for technology companies and new and emerging areas. We will marry with this the potential for data centres and the consideration of Ireland for potential inward investment for these.
We welcome the promotion of cloud computing. It has the potential to make savings for businesses throughout the State. Businesses will connect to the cloud through broadband, and we are concerned that at present the State has three broadband speeds, namely, fast, medium and none. We have fallen to 57th place internationally with regard to broadband speeds. The movement towards cloud computing would be great but for the fact it will have the effect of excluding some businesses throughout the State which do not have proper coverage and they will be at a competitive disadvantage. What steps will the Government take to ensure there will be one broadband speed and that instead of being 57th we will be in the top ten internationally?
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, has specific responsibility for this area. I do not know whether the Deputy has engaged with him on this matter, but I suggest he does so because he would get a definitive answer on what we are doing with regard to broadband.
For the purposes of addressing the issue of the potential of cloud computing, I realise certain businesses operating in certain geographical areas will face challenges and there is no question about this. We will spend €1.2 million on an initial research programme and a cloud computing technology centre. With regard to the potential of this area, we are looking at hitting global research targets and pitching Ireland's potential globally. The National Standards Authority of Ireland has adopted the SWiFT 10 guide and I would like to find out how many businesses are aware of this at present. If we can build consciousness about the potential of cloud computing in tandem with meeting the challenges with regard to broadband we will be doing well in terms of meeting global measurements.
Is the Minister of State aware of concerns in industry that graduate programmes and courses in our third level colleges may not be up to speed with regard to cloud computing and that those teaching the courses may need further training and upgrading?
If the Deputy is concerned about a specific course I would welcome further information on it and I am happy to speak directly to him on this matter. Cork Institute of Technology, in tandem with industry, has developed a specific course on this. Mr. Bob Savage of EMC is on the governing body of CIT so one is confident this course has large industry buy-in. If the industry has problems with or concerns about courses we need to hear about them.