One of the world’s most influential internet leaders has told Ireland to catch up or lose out in the broadband stakes.
Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has told a Dublin audience that Ireland needs to do better at broadband.
Schmidt also urged the government to work harder at getting Irish businesses online in a bid to beat the recession.
The Google boss warned that Ireland is lagging behind France, Germany and the UK in providing high-speed internet access to homes and businesses through traditional access and wireless networks such as 4G.
“Which is not to say that you can’t catch up quickly, but you need to do it,” he said. “It’s not a tragedy but it’s an issue.
“The thing the Government can actually do that’s hard is to work with the telecommunications providers to get more broadband. It’s very difficult for small businesses to do.
“There are very few things that are better use of your money than long-term infrastructure in information technology that serves the interests of the citizens of the country.”
Schmidt told the Irish Times that the financial crisis hasn’t helped the broadband roll-out in Ireland or the bid to get more businesses online.
He added: “It may be that the Government has had a tough time, choosing between 10 different legitimate groups. I’m lobbying for mine.
“The benefit of lobbying for mine is I think that the economic benefit of getting Irish businesses to be global, the flow through is so phenomenal. It creates new jobs, they pay taxes; it’s a market. But it is aided by such investment.”
Adamant that there is a global opportunity out there for Irish business, Schmidt highlighted the fact that some 40 per cent of businesses in Ireland have no internet presence.
“If I can sound critical, my observation is that Irish businesses are somewhat behind, especially the small and medium business, getting online compared to where they should be,” he said.
“And Google and other companies working with people here should work very hard to get those companies on the internet.”
According to the paper, Schmidt quoted a recent McKinsey study which claimed that, for every job lost through internet competition, 2.6 are created.
He also outlined plans for Google to expand in Ireland - it currently employs about 2,200 people in Ireland and is one of the fastest growing employers in the State.
“Our decision has nothing to do with the Irish economy and everything to do with the Irish workforce,” he said.
“Ireland is a great place to run our business. We have a workforce of geographically diverse, speaking multiple languages, creative young people coming out of your top universities. This is a desirable place to work.”