Open data coming to the UK. Where is Ireland on this?

UK government pushes ahead to support linked open data initiative

data dot gov dot uk is about to become a reality.  Tim Berners Lee and Nigel Schadbolt cover this off in their article, Put in your postcode, out comes the data, in The Times 18/11/09.

The UK government is moving forward on a similar basis to the US government – in making public data available to the public.

Curious to see how far advanced we are wrt implementing something similar in Ireland – in the context of our knowledge society and smart economy.  Must make sense to make this type of information available – as argued by Tim Berners Lee in the referenced article.

Semantic web research in Ireland

Semantic web awards for DERI

Congratulations to the team at DERI (based in Galway, Ireland) on their collection of awards at the recent International Semantic Web Conference.

Important to recognise the role being played by Ireland in this emerging field.

Where is my university? Where does it need to be?

Universities must avail of collaborative technologies to provide real global learning experiences for undergraduates

:Cricket ground at Trinity College Dublin
Image via Wikipedia

I was lucky enough to spend four great years in Trinity College Dublin – way back when (1980-1984) – studying for an engineering degree.  A combination of study, growing up, socialising, forming many friendships which survive to now, playing lots of sport.

We did not have lap tops, we did not have mobile phones, we did not have social networks.

In truth much of what we were taught as undergraduates was as well, if not better covered, in various text books.  There were limited opportunities for practicals, tutorials, projects, opportunities to interact with lecturers and/or Phd dtudents.  These opportunities were actually the potential added value over and above the text books.

As I work and live in a web 2.0 and, increasingly, a web 3.0 world I wonder how my children will participate in 3rd level education – should they choose to do so.

The real opportunity I see for current and future undergraduates is collaboration.   It seems to me that undergraduates attending TCD should be involved in online collaboration with undergraduates and people in industry – based across the world.  The technology allows for this.  The challenge is for the universities to become more open and collaborative.

An interesting piece this week by Kevin Maney in Business Week: Next, An internet revolution in higher education. Kevin, with a slightly different perspective, seems to point to a lot of the same ideas and challenges for third level insitutions.

I think the opportunities in education and ‘global development’ for young people now are greater than ever.  I hope that universities can continue to provide a great experience to be shared by people (predominantly young – but with much more integration with ‘mature’ students) – while exploiting the news technologies to broaden the horizons for all.

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Ireland – continuing to play our part on the world stage

In my working life (25 years since graduating from engineering school in Trinity College) I have never before experienced the challenges now seen in Ireland. At the time I commenced my training contract in KPMG (then SKC) in 1984 I recall many recently qualified accountants being very concerned for their future. In 2000/2001 – three years into running our own consulting company ( we faced real challenges in the post ‘.com’ dip. Today’s challenges are on a different scale.

During those 25 years Irish people have been to the fore in international affairs – be it commerce, arts, politics, education, charity. And by Irish people I refer to the 70 million or so who make up the global Irish population – including the 5 million or so on this island.

There must be a temptation within the international community to look at us – on the island of Ireland – as having had the benefit of major inward investment and squandered it. Part of facing our challenge now is to continue to take our place on the world stage. Those of us living and operating within the island of Ireland need to continue to play our part. There is a quid pro quo for looking to the greater diaspora and to Europe for further assistance and investment – we must play our part. We cannot simply get out the begging bowl. We are an established country and we’ve made some major mistakes, much of them rooted in greed. The most recent budget was the first step in convincing the international community that we are going to address our issues. The next budget must show real conviction about getting our cost base sorted.

Dan O’Brien’s article in the Irish Times is pretty hard hitting. He questions the calibre of the people representing Ireland in international affairs. He questions the effort made by the main political parties in the run up to the first referendum and their current effort in the runup to the second referendum. It does not make for pretty reading – but is deserving of reflection.

The next few years are going to witness more largescale emigration of talent from Ireland – without a doubt. Just for now the emigration options look limited – but given the changes we are beginning to see in overseas locations those opportunities will arise again. Many young talented Irish will choose to work and live overseas – not interested in staying to pay high taxes to pay off the sins of the past. A political system which is unwilling to cut overhead to match income will not provide the economic and social opportunites for many of our young talented people. Depressing though this may be, it will happen.

So let us at least recognise that this will happen – and that we need to play our part. Let’s make an effort to make it easier for international companies and individuals to interact with us. I had recent experience of an overseas student (seond generation Irish – US based) relocating here for 1 term of his undergraduate degree. He contacted the university – they advised him to come 4 weeks early and sort out his own accomodation. Given the level of fees we charge overseas students for this privilege I think this is a simple example of what’s wrong with this country at present.

Let’s make sure that the talent that goes abroad wants to continue to be part of Ireland – although they may never actually relocate to live here again. Let’s figure out a way to have them continue to be involved in the development of this country. Some of them may never contribute to our income tax revenues – but some of them may, down the line, bring the next Dell, Intel or Boston Scientific to Ireland. I, for one, would like to have them continue to have a direct role in electing our government.

I would not underestimate the challenges faced by our political leaders at present. (Nor should they underestimate the challenges faced by those of us trying to drive the economy forward). It’s not an easy time to be striding the world stage and advising the rest of the world how to do it. Nevertheless we must have a voice, have a view and play ourt part. The future for Irish business is the world stage – building international and global businesses out of Ireland, building products and delivering services to the global business community. Our innovators and our future business leaders need Irish political leadership which participates and contributes on an international level.

The first step – ensure Lisbon success.

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Irish government to appoint a CTO?

So the government published its paper: Knowledge Society Strategy: Technology Actions to Support the Smart Economy.

There is already plenty of comment – on twitter, in the blogs, on the news and there will be more over the next few days.  Comments ranging from ‘a lot of waffle’, ‘telling us what we already know’, ‘where’s the meat?’, etc.  But buried in the report are enough reference points to show where we’ve been making progress and where we’ve been falling behind.

When I read Friedman’s ‘The world is flat’, listing his concerns about the state of education, engineering in the US, I felt he could have been writing about Ireland.  Ironically he references Ireland as a country pulling itself up and leveraging the flatness of the world.  However the shortage of maths proficient secondary school leavers is a major concern and cannot be fixed over night.

The topics discussed in the paper are very worthy of attention – and do represent opportunities for Ireland Inc e.g. cloud, green data centres, networking.  Delighted to see reference to semantic web – not really that surprising after €25m of government investment.

I just picked out one small detail from the report (p45):

The Government should appoint a high level CTO with the authority to drive cultural change across the many departments and agencies.

I have commented previously on such appointments in the US – within the Obama administration.  I would strongly support such an initiative – though she/he will need plenty of support from Mssrs. Ryan and Lenihan.

Seeking changes in Health & Education in Ireland

Interesting to read Paul Rellis (CEO Microsoft Ireland) pushing significant amounts of technology in Education and Health as ways to address much of the problems we have.

Would agree 100% with Paul Rellis’s ideas around uses of digital technology.  However seems to me risk putting cart before the horse.  First we need a clear vision of what we are looking to achieve, then commitment from those in Health & Education to achieve the vision, commitment from the investor (govt.) in terms of any required investment.  The technology bit is not actually that hard – using Microsoft technology, other proprietary technology and open source technology – in any, to be agreed, configuration.

But first let’s set vision, get some commitment and manage the change.

Social networking – is it what always came naturally to the Irish?

I participate actively as an online ‘social networker’.  Seems to me there are many benefits – through linkedin, facebook, twitter, blogging.

Interesting piece recently about whether we should blend the personal and the business stuff in social networking activities.  There are many reasons to do so – the technology increasingly means people are available to work at anytime from anywhere (good and bad!).  Part of being successful in business is building and developing relationships – seems to be some logic to revealing some of the personal stuff.

The web based networks facilitate a level of networking simply not possible without.  And yet seems that much of the most effective networking continues to be face to face – or, face to many face.  As someone described it to me recently there is that hour in the pub when people seem relaxed, in a heightened state of awareness and the antennae are up for networking.  Depending on how long is spent imbibing the quality of the networking may subsequently drop off.

And some people are just more comfortable networking…’the gift of the gab’ as we sometimes describe it.

So long as we see social networking as another channel, another way of networking I think we won’t go wrong.  But when people start to substitute wikis, facebook, etc for actual face to face encounters…then they risk losing the plot.

Irish firm delivering cloud based accounting solutions

Great report in the Irish Times today of Tony Connolly’s success in Australia in conjunction with Deloittes.  This is the type of entrepreneur activity which can get this country back on its feet.  Well done Tony!

Semantic web in Ireland

Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 and then some!

On a day of doom and gloom – the emergency budget in Ireland – was lucky enough to spend a couple of uplifting hours in the Institute of European Affairs, Ireland (

I was listening to and interacting with Liam Moran, business development manager, Digitial Enterprise Reseach Institute (Galway, Ireland).  DERI ( is the type of thing this country needs (‘The vision of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute is to be recognised as the leading international web science research institute interlinking technologies, information and people to advance business and benefit society’).  Set up with some real foresight, backed by the Irish government and Europe, real leadership (including Tim Berners Lee) and lots of brilliant minds.

Very exciting applications emerging from the research – the latest being SIOC to be adotped by the US government.  Visit the site ( for a better insight.

Liam gave a comprehensive review of Web o, 1, 2 & 3 and painted some great images of what could happen.

One particular observation caught my attention – how do we avoid getting bogged down in simply copying (even plagiarising) others to the exclusion of original, creative, thought?  Not being a music composer I often wonder where song writers continue to come up with new ideas?  Reminds me in some wasy of being back in school – when you were studying Shakepeare did you try to understand Hamlet for yourself and provide your own analysis/ commentary or did you simply buy ‘Coles Notes’ and regurgitate the standard bumph?