Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Revealing the Irish ‘e-diaspora’

NamSor technology has mapped the location of Irish-owned Twitter accounts around the world

The green dots show the location of Irish-owned Twitter accounts

Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 12:33

   

Elian Carsenat and Michel Fortin

Before Christmas, we came to Ireland to present NamSor, a piece of name recognition software which uncovered the Irish ‘digital diaspora’ for the first time. This interactive world map of the Irish, French and Indonesian e-Diasporas was produced using Twitter account data.

Twitter in an interesting data source because about 3 per cent of Twitter accounts opt-in to show their Tweet location (using GPS from a smartphone) and can be visualised on a map. We were interested to visualise the Irish digital diaspora, not just in the US and the UK, but globally. Our assumption was that the Irish themselves are familiar with the history and sociology of the Irish diaspora in the US and the UK (and such organisations like IDA Ireland and Tourism Ireland have been successful in leveraging those), but what about Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia ? It is interesting to see how large and dispersed the Irish diaspora is in the US, and how small and concentrated it is in populous Indonesia.

The scientific jargon for this special data mining is applied onomastics. We’ve worked with many different databases before, using onomastics for a specific purpose. For example, to help Lithuania understand the sociology of its diaspora and attract foreign direct investments (FDI), we’ve data mined Factiva C&E, a large database of company directors worldwide. We’ve also analysed PubMed, a scientific database used by doctors and biotechnology researchers, to recognise where international talent flows in that competitive field.

We spent a lot of time in Dublin with Kingsley Aikins, chief executive of Diaspora Matters, who is well known internationally in the diaspora field and has worked with many other countries as well as Ireland.

He felt the product could be a real game changer in the diaspora field and could help answer the perennial question all countries ask about their diasporas – who are they, where are they and what are they doing. He believes that we now live in a networked age and the key to success of diaspora engagement is in building global networks. He believes Namsor will help find these people and enable new diaspora networks to be developed.

He also referred to the emerging global war for talent and how diasporas are going to be critically important sources of talent. Countries who know and keep in touch with their diasporas will have a competitive advantage. This will apply not only to those wishing to return but also those wishing to be involved and help with DDI (Diaspora Direct Investment). Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia have already introduced initiatives in these areas.

We were impressed with the success of the Gathering, bringing several hundred thousand people to Ireland. This is an innovative initiative and must have strengthened the bonds between the Irish diaspora and Ireland.

There may not be such thing as a ‘French diaspora’, but we see more and more French people going abroad, especially the young and talented seeking an international experience. We’ve seen a lot of them in Dublin! Our impression is that the French abroad don’t really know or help each other as effectively as in other cultures, such as the Irish. French diplomats, large companies, entrepreneurs established abroad, exporting SMEs, professors and students all seem to live in separate worlds. France could learn a lot from what Ireland is doing.

NamSor Applied Onomastics is a European vendor of name recognition software (NamSor sorts names), which aims to help understand international flows of money, ideas and people. namsor.com

Diaspora Matters is a consultancy company based in Dublin advising governments, companies, organisations and individuals on how to develop strategies and programmes to connect with their Diasporas. diasporamatters.com

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