Ireland cannot be complacent about its edge
Have we really challenged ourselves to think clearly about our uniqueness? Do we understand how to ensure our continued success on a world stage?
World renowned anthropologist Genevieve Bell recently said that “the most interesting place from which to see the centre is from the edge - the advantage of the edge is that you can experiment, you can play, you can innovate, you can disrupt”.
Ireland is indeed a place that is physically on the edge of Europe, even on the edge of the world and a place from which unique perspectives on the centre can and do emerge. I have also come to think about Ireland’s edge with even more meaning, as a way of expressing Ireland’s unique offering to the world - our core competence if you will.
So what is “Ireland’s edge”? What are our unique and differentiating characteristics? What is it that allows us to earn our way in this dynamic world? What makes Ireland a place where people want to visit, to live, to raise families, to work, to set up businesses, to innovate and to ultimately create intellectual property in the form perhaps of a song, a dance, a product or a service that others wish to experience and purchase?
Like everybody else I imagine, I’ve heard Ireland’s edge described in many different ways. It’s our rich cultural heritage, it’s our inherent sense of place or community, our resilience and strength, it’s our broad and outwardly looking world view, it’s our curiosity for science and technology or the simple fact that that we are bound together as citizens of this tiny island.
However, isn’t it true that many countries boast of a rich cultural heritage of their own and are proud of where they come from, have had turbulent histories that gave them resilience and have strong, capable pipelines of innovators, technologists and scientists?
Have we really challenged ourselves to think clearly about our uniqueness? Do we understand how to ensure our continued success on a world stage? Once defined, we should never be complacent about protecting, nourishing and developing Ireland’s edge because the rest of the world isn’t standing still.
In fact, it’s not just that the world isn’t standing still, it’s changing at an almost unbelievable pace. Intel is a great example in that regard evolving from a Personal Computer Company to a Data Company. Computing is being transformed and embodied in our daily lives in ever changing ways bringing with it an explosion in data creation, storage and analytics. A simple example illustrates the point - it’s estimated that by the year 2020 a single autonomous car will generate more internet traffic per day than the average family of 5 people would in an entire year.
So for me, defining Ireland’s edge creates the blueprint for how we will create our place and pay our way in this changing world. Investing in Ireland’s edge will enable us to build a stable, sustainable, engaged and civic society that values the intersection of economy, citizenship and culture.
This journey actually began at the eir Other Voices Festival in Dingle at the first Ireland’s Edge conference two years ago when people from diverse backgrounds in industry, technology, politics, academia, media and the arts, gathered to discuss just that question. Our next conversation brings us to Smock Alley in Dublin for an evening of thought provoking creative performance and interactive panel discussions on this very topic. I look forward to continuing this discussion over the weeks and months ahead.