Kilkenny suffering a 'digital bypass' says Tech Ireland south-east advisor

John Cleere: 'We found 16 companies in Kilkenny that were SAAS companies, and half of them didn’t know the other half existed'

Sam Matthews

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Sam Matthews

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sam.matthews@kilkennypeople.ie

TECH THURSDAY

Conall Laverty, Wia, Alan Costello, NDRC, Niamh Bushnell, TechIreland, Brendan Cunningham, Pin Point Alerts and Stephen Moran, Bank of Ireland at Tech Thursday PICTURE: PAT MOORE

Kilkenny is well poised to capitalise on the tech revolution but is currently suffering a ‘digital bypass’, according to the south-east advisor for Tech Ireland.

John Cleere, of Red Lemonade and Tech Ireland, says Kilkenny City is ‘perfect’ in terms of its infrastructure and fast internet, but a ‘digital plan’ is now needed to ensure the Marble City flourishes. There is more we could be doing.

That’s one of the reasons that the ‘Tech Thursday’ initiative has been so successful. The concept began almost two years ago as ‘Start-Up Week’, in the five major cities, but has been since pioneered here by John.

The idea is that it connects companies, acting as a resource for data and useful insights. The need for that became quickly evident earlier this year at a Tech Thursday on ‘Software As A Service’ (SAAS).

“We found 16 companies in Kilkenny that were SAAS companies, and half of them didn’t know the other half existed,” says John.

“That’s why Tech Ireland is there. It is that element of connection between the companies, but it also provides a good perspective on what’s out there.”

So, what has changed since the early beginnings? Well, for one, a lot more people are interested.

The last two events have seen 150 people or so attending on a dark Thursday evening. Networking opportunities are also being realised.

“One of the interesting things I would say that people are getting jobs from being at the event,” says John.

"People have actually found employment by visiting Tech Thursday. At the last Tech Thursday, we had, I think, 15 design and tech jobs currently available in Kilkenny.”

Increasing digitisation of our lives is already transpiring in virtually every sector of the economy. This is worrying for some, but may present other opportunities if the right balance is struck.

There are people already working in tech here, but John says there is plenty of scope to increase this. He points to one of Kilkenny’s traditional strengths — saying if ‘ half as much effort’ went into bringing people to live and work here as it does into getting tourists to visit, we will be on to a winner.

“Kilkenny is a service-centric city,” he says.

“There’s a lot of jobs, a lot of low-paid work. There’s a lot of part-time work in Kilkenny. There is going to be a lot of displacement of those jobs in the next couple of years when shops change from being what they are now to being whatever — I don’t know exactly.

“A lot of work could be lost in hotels, and these things — they’re not going to be replaced by robots — but they will be replaced by online services and using your phone to do different things.”

The most recent Tech Thursday, on ‘Smart Cities’, attracted prestigious guests, such as Wia, Cisco, Pin Point Alerts, Bank of Ireland Innovation, the Irish Designers Institute, and more. John says, at its most basic, a ‘smart city’ is one that has a digital plan.

“Kilkenny does not currently have a digital plan,” he says.

“It’s about kind of doing a review of everything that’s there and finding out what needs to be done.

“There is a kind of perception that it would take too long, but a digital plan could be done for free, and it could be done in three weeks. And I just think that needs to be pointed out.”