Kieran O’Hea, the founder of Digital Cork, says all towns in Ireland need to engage more with the digital economy.

Can you tell us about your background and how Digital Cork came about?

I’m from Cork but spent most of my career elsewhere, working in multimedia, web and digital strategy. I had some great experiences, managing Ireland’s first Apple Mac design agency, co-founding its first DVD authoring studio and being appointed the first chief digital officer of Brisbane.

I returned to Cork two years ago from Brisbane and saw opportunities to create a Cork digital strategy, promote the digital sector and develop the local digital economy. I created Digital Cork to encourage digital engagement at a strategic level both in business and in local government.

“Every region in Ireland needs more people who are driving the digital agenda.”

What are your passions? What drives you?

My passion is to develop Ireland’s digital economy across cities and towns, with Cork as the pacesetter. Digital Cork has given me a platform to voice this passion and is succeeding in building awareness. A suite of projects is ready to implement, once resources become available.

What drives me is the desire to see Cork taking its digital economy more seriously. I’ve invested a lot of my own time into Digital Cork, identifying initiatives like the need for a Cork digital strategy and am driven by the belief that one day these initiatives will be approved and funded.

“More effort is needed to engage SMEs in the digital economy, with as few as 14% currently trading online.”

What would you like to see more of in Cork?

With new developments planned across the city, Cork’s physical landscape will undergo dramatic change, but more emphasis needs to be put on its digital landscape. Vision and planning are needed to secure Cork’s share of the global digital economy, predicted to be worth $100 trillion by 2025.

More effort is needed to engage SMEs in the digital economy, with as few as 14% currently trading online. Startups and digital native companies are constantly in the spotlight, yet SMEs are crucial to the economy. A new approach is needed to successfully transition them into the digital economy.

Constantly benchmarking itself against other Irish cities may make Cork complacent and restrict its potential. It should expand its outlook by aligning with non-primary overseas cities that have developed renowned digital ecosystems, like Malmo in Sweden and Boulder, Colorado.

Every region in Ireland needs more people who are driving the digital agenda. In Cork, it would be a positive step if we were to see the creation of a senior position, dedicated to strengthening Cork’s digital strategy and its digital economy. The person appointed should be a digital champion with a remit from local government and key stakeholders to lead digital development across the region.

“SMEs will finally emerge to play a crucial role in the growth of Cork’s digital economy.”

What trends do you see emerging in Cork?

The emergence of more global tech companies that are indigenous to Cork, adding to the likes of Teamwork.com, Voxpro and Poppulo. As global ambassadors, they can draw attention to what Cork has to offer in areas such as SaaS, IOT, cybersecurity and AI. Meanwhile, the professional image they project will continue to be a magnet for customers and talent.

SMEs will finally emerge to play a crucial role in the growth of Cork’s digital economy. When everyone from local authorities to corner shops decides to take digital seriously, much better training programmes will be developed which will empower SMEs to build business strategies for the digital age. This will have a seismic effect on Cork’s digital economy.

Cork’s digital revolution will not only happen in the city. In villages and towns across Cork, broadband will increase digital adoption by local businesses and encourage greater community engagement in the digital economy. New ways of working will provide alternatives for residents, as they choose to work from home or in digital hubs in their towns and villages.

“We need as many companies as possible to take this survey.”

How can people get involved in supporting your initiative?

We are currently running the Cork Digital Capability Survey. We need as many companies as possible to take the survey, so we can measure their digital capability and create a digital maturity score for Cork.

The survey only takes ten minutes, and afterwards, your digital capability score will be sent to you. You might also win a free consultation with Digital Cork. So please take the survey.

To get involved in Digital Cork or to request additional information, contact us by e-mail info@digitalcork.ie, via our website or follow us on Twitter @digital_cork.