Ireland’s digital exports hit €117bn in 2020

Ireland’s digital exports kept flowing while the physical economy was ravaged by the disruption caused by Covid-19.

Digital exports via Irish-based data centres to the rest of the world reached €117bn in 2020, proving the essential economic role this infrastructure plays, according to a new  biannual report from Host in Ireland, in association with Bitpower

Recent research from ESRI shows these exports, of which data centres are the critical backbone infrastructure, account for 26pc of all of Ireland’s export activity this year.

“As we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, data centres and their workers have been essential to keeping Ireland online and the economy functioning”

While fortunes fell dramatically for the vast majority of Ireland’s economic sectors – transport, tourism, retail, etc. – computer services, pharmaceuticals and medicinal products have had strong enough performances to buoy the Irish export economy as a whole.

The report also indicated that there are now 66 data centres operational, planned or under construction in Ireland.

The energy related carbon emission metric introduced last Spring continues to show data centre carbon emissions remaining at 1.58pc of Ireland’s total emissions.

A new business sentiment rating shows 96pc of data centre ecosystem companies are optimistic about business for the upcoming 12 months.

Data centres: The industry that exports while you sleep

Gary Connolly, president and founder of Host in Ireland, emphasised how the importance of data centres in our day-to-day lives continues to be a key factor as global lockdowns sustain the rapid shift to an online world to learn, work and entertain ourselves.

He pointed out that while many industries have struggled, the effect of Covid-19 on development within the industry has been minimal.

He said this is attributed to continued investment from global organisations, high high rates of activity from third party developers, and established data centre clusters continuing to grow. This activity is expected to account for €1.25 billion of investment in 2020.

“As we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, data centres and their workers have been essential to keeping Ireland online and the economy functioning,” Connolly said.

“The sense of pride and purpose from the industry is rewarding, but validation of the significant economic impact data centres have had during this economic downturn is invaluable.

“Future export opportunities look to grow even further when we take into account green electricity as a more valuable export asset in the form of data.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 24 November, 2020