Seanad debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad

 

10:30 am

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail)

I will start by agreeing with my colleagues. Senator Davitt spoke concerning the Passport Office while Senator Warfield spoke about reform of the licensing laws and a debate around studio space to support our creative industries.

I want to refer to events in Australia with regard to Facebook recently. They raise important questions about how we ensure payment for quality journalism in future. This is an issue my colleague, Senator Cassells, has raised regularly. They also bring up the critical question of the relationship between multinational technology companies and the State. Who is in charge?

Many aspects of our lives will be increasingly shaped by technology. The amount of time we will spend in these Houses debating this will be crucial. Before Christmas we dealt with Coco's law. We are about to deal with an online safety Bill. We deal with disinformation and fake news. One of the challenges for Ulster Bank and the Ulster Bank issue is the shift to digital banking. We are looking at the audit of the algorithm for the leaving certificate. The Commission on the Defence Forces is dealing increasingly with questions around cybersecurity. The Garda is dealing with cybercrime. The pandemic has led to more interest in remote working. Online shopping will change the fabric of retail. We are going to have to deal with many more of these issues in the House in future, including everything from how we regulate artificial intelligence and machine learning to an automated workforce to big data. How will we prepare for the regulation of driverless cars? We are looking at the rise of drone technology. Drones are already being used for delivery in Galway.

The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science cannot simply be an administrative Department. Part of its role has to be around upskilling and reskilling all of us as citizens to be prepared for all those changes. It is not simply about one Department; there has to be a whole-of-government response. I would like to have a debate around how we, as a Parliament and a society, are preparing for all the technological changes that we will see in the coming decade.

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