North's technology sector 'must reinvent itself for next decade'

Professor Kevin Curran and Tim Brundle from Ulster University with Darren Lemon, general manager at eir Business NI

THE private and public sectors in Northern Ireland must "quickly reinvent themselves" to take advantage of the fast-changing global knowledge economy and opportunities presented by new technologies, or risk being left behind, a leading industry chief claims.

The challenge came from Darren Lemon, general manager at eir Business NI, as the company - which since 2007 has invested £40 million in its network and high-value skills and by creating a local supply chain - unveiled research and industry analysis of the future economic and technology landscape in conjunction with the Ulster University.

Speaking at reception to mark eir's 10th anniversary in the north, Mr Lemon said: “Northern Ireland has made great strides in the development of a knowledge economy over the last decade, but the pace of change and advent of new technologies globally means we must move more quickly than we did previously to reinvent our offering.”

According to the eir/UU study, two thirds (67 per cent) of businesses believe the pace of technology adoption will increase in the next decade while at the same time we will witness a significant shift away from traditional IT and software jobs to new and emerging technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), automation, big data and mobility solutions.

The increased pace of change also brings with it a number of challenges with security concerns (66 per cent), the availability of ICT skills (59 per cent) and budget requirements (52 per cent) ranked as the top three.

Mr Lemon added: “Given the pervasive and transformative nature of these new technologies across all business sectors and their exponential growth in such a short period of time, we need all partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors, in education, business and government to deliver strategies which react to these global changes and to do so rapidly.

"Against this backdrop, the knowledge economy is ‘the economy of the future', and Northern Ireland needs to grab the opportunities presented with both hands or risk further economic stagnation and isolation. This will require a sense of common purpose, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, speed and agility and a lot more collaboration between all interested parties."

Tim Brundle, director of research and impact at Ulster University, said: “Given the mega-trends emerging in global markets around AI, automation and big data, the pace of technology adoption in Northern Ireland needs to increase over the next 10 years as companies try and stay competitive and build export markets.”

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