The digital age offers a huge opportunity for both Cork city and the county to overcome geographic disadvantage and compete internationally in a variety of business sectors, according to Glen Dimplex chief executive and chairman Seán O'Driscoll.
Mr O'Driscoll told the annual Cork Chamber dinner last night that the digital age had the potential to be a "game-changer" for Cork as digital technology would continue to have a profound impact on the way people interact and go about their business.
“We have entered a new age of BC and AD – this time it stands for ‘before connectivity’ and ‘after digital’,” said Mr O’Driscoll, adding that every business that wanted to grow must have a digital strategy.
Companies should also have a reverse mentoring programme where employees, say under the age of 35, mentor those over 35 on the opportunities offered by the digital world.
“Broadband and digital technology will consign geographical disadvantages to history. Living online means that we have the opportunity to work where and when we want,” Mr O’Driscoll told the 1,000 guests at the function in Cork City Hall.
He urged Cork to overcome its "second-city syndrome" and follow the examples of its twin cities of San Francisco and Shanghai which have both become the digital centres in their respective countries. Cork should seek to emulate them in an Irish context.
Mr O’Driscoll also called on indigenous firms in Cork to scale up and diversify internationally, while at the same time “not straying too far from your core business” if they are to survive in the long term.
The dangers of failing to diversify were all too obvious, said Mr O'Driscoll, who pointed to the reliance in Ireland on the construction sector which in 2007 accounted for 22 per cent of the Irish economy when it should have been 12 per cent, with disastrous consequences.
Mr O’Driscoll said he hoped the recently-launched Cork City and County Collective Strategy for Tourism would provide Cork with the structures and foundations to enable it to compete with Kerry. “We can make Cork a must- visit destination for tourists.”