Background to Irish Growth
Ireland experienced a rapid rate of growth from the mid-1990’s to the mid-2000’s, when foreign direct investment into the country fuelled a period of rapid expansion.
This period of rapid growth earned the country the nickname, the Celtic Tiger, which came from a comparison drawn to the East Asian Tiger countries of Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, who had experienced similar booms in economic growth.
To put it into figures, Ireland’s economy grew on average 9.4 % per year between 1995 and 2000, and then an average rate of 5.9% until 2008, when the country fell into a recession due to a subsequent property bubble, which burst, leaving the country in a challenging economic situation.
Celtic Tiger Recovery
In the aftermath of the decline of the Celtic Tiger boom, Dublin was forced to readapt to a changing economic climate, and reposition itself as an economic hub in Europe. As we’ve explored on this blog before, Dublin is now an entry point for business into Europe, and a thriving tech hub that offers optimal regulatory conditions for setting up a business.
With this growth in tech, there seems to be the perception that the surge in tech in Ireland and Dublin in particularly, is mostly due to the way in which the country has recently focused its efforts on rebuilding the economy, but this is only partly true.
While the influx of global startups and investment into the city and country has definitely shaped the current tech ecosystem, the beginnings of the Irish technology industry actually go much further back. According to a project that is being put together, there is a wealth of knowledge and experiences that are being put into an online archive of the country’s early tech beginnings.
With this historical insight, it’s clear that the foundations for the current tech boom were actually laid a long time before Google set up shop in the Silicon Docks, something we’ll explore in this blog post, with an insight into both recent and historic developments, as the Dublin startup ecosystem continues to thrive and grow.
Insight into the TechArchives
The history of information technology in Ireland goes back to the original undersea cables and the first, somewhat faulty, internet connection in Dublin. As in countries around the world, it was only because of a solid foundation in this industry that tech giants could then move in to set up shop in Dublin, example of adequate preparation and perfect timing.
What is being called “Memory-as-a-Service“, TechArchives is a collection of stories from everyone and anyone involved in the Irish technology industry, and researcher and journalist using these to piece together a history of the country from a technological standpoint.
Brief overview of key points along timeline
To take it back to the early days, when the idea of a personal computer was still a long way off, the first company to use a “stored program computer” (as they were called at the time), was the Irish Sugar Company. Although the company started using the company to manage its accounts in 1957, it only managed to do this after some trial and error in 1960. Other notable milestones during this period include the first Irish-made computer in 1960 and the first Irish software company in 1968.
The first internet connection also took place at Trinity, and interestingly, at the time considered “just another circuit”. Humorously, the first communication about this was an email that read: “No guarantees of reliable service are available at present, it is quite likely that the line will go down at no notice.”
In Ireland, academic and information technology business paved the way for development, with the first Irish internet provider IEunet starting up in 1991, at the same time that the first internet line became up and running, along with the World Wide Web. The first government connection became available in 1993, and in 1994, Internet Eireann was the first service provider to charge a flat monthly fee for a dial up connection. In late 1997, the company would test the first ADSL lines in Ireland in 40 employees’ homes.
Current Technological Space
As current media coverage suggests, the burgeoning Dublin tech scene has largely been attributed to the arrival of international heavyweight tech giants like Google, and the subsequent development of the Silicon Docks. From a dilapidated, run down part of the city, the docklands have now been transformed into a hub of thriving business activity, although a variety companies have also set up offices in other parts of the city.
In particular, Dublin is positioning itself as a leader in FinTech, which is focused on technological applications and development in the financial sector. According to a review by the Dublin Globe, developments in this sector, in which Dublin is playing an active role, include:
- innovative payment solutions, for example with the use of Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) instead of cards
- blockchain and cryptocurrency, which are presenting formidable opposition to banking institutions
Other prominent sectors of investment in the Irish startup economy include entreprise software, MedTech (medical technology), communications and Envirotech (technology focused on improving the environment).
All of these developments could not have taken place without a solid infrastructure in place, so while Ireland may be positioning itself as a Europe point of entry for business and a startup incubator for various tech industries, as the TechArchives suggest, the foundations were being laid long before Google moved into its offices alongside the Liffey.