The Irish cable company UPC has released a report suggesting that the internet will contribute $14.4 billion annually to the Irish economy by 2016.

The report, commissioned by UPC and carried out by Amarach Research, showed that Irish people are forward looking and “digital optimists”. They anticipate a host of new services to enable them to work, shop, study and share online from their homes.

Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte launched the report in Dublin on Thursday.

Rabbitte welcomed the research, saying it provided further insights into the potential of the internet to contribute to economic renewal and recovery in Ireland.

He said, “We know that key ingredients in achieving our potential are high speed broadband and digital participation – by citizens and businesses. As a progressive knowledge economy, trading goods and services globally, we need to be better connected than most in the world and we need to embrace the opportunities the Internet makes possible.”

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The figure, $14.4 billion per year, is up from just $6 billion in 2010. The report states that this projected increase will be underpinned by the 2.6 million online shoppers in who will spend $4.7 billion in 2012 but will go on to spend $7.3 billion per year by 2016.

Currently the Internet only accounts for three percent of Ireland GDP but this figure will double over the next four years.

The research also shows that there will be an increase of 18,000 employed by the Internet, as long as the Irish society and industry can “keep pace” with the digitization levels in areas such as the UK and Scandinavia.

Currently the use of the Internet in Ireland is growing exponentially. Since 2009 the total Internet traffic in Ireland has risen by 800 percent.

UPC Ireland CEO Dana Strong said customers’ bandwidth and content requirements were “growing constantly”. She said this is down to the amount of video content now available online.

Strong said, “We were surprised to discover that people are spending 2.6 hours online every day, and that nearly 70 percent of us frequently shop online. This indicates that the size of digital spend is large and is going to be enormous in years to come. We must ensure that these developments are met by Irish based productivity and innovation in the future.”

She continued, “Businesses clearly recognize the opportunity that broadband represents – in fact one in four businesses think they could achieve an extra 5 per cent growth on top of their current prospects with the right online strategy. If we can achieve a digital economy equal to that in the UK, we stand to gain 18,000 jobs.”

The key findings of the study:

80 percent of adults use the Internet in Ireland

Broadband take-up in Ireland matches the EU average at two thirds of homes

Internet users spend an average of 2.6 hours online on a typical weekday

69 percent of people say their broadband speed is sufficient

On average there are two or more people using broadband in every home

Shopping and social networks are the most popular online activities

There are 2.6 million online shoppers in Ireland

30 percent of people use a laptop / tablet / smartphone at the same time while watching TV

80 percent of businesses are optimistic about their growth prospects in the coming two years
55 percent of Irish businesses say they intend hiring in the next 12 to 24 months

Over 75 percent of companies supply smart phones and laptops to about a third or more of their staff
A third of adults already use the Internet at home for work purposes

Six in 10 workers are expected to work from home some or all of the time by 2016

Half of all adults would be interested in running their own business from home at some stage, facilitated by digital technologies

Nearly half of all businesses have observed an increase in online feedback from customers in recent years

One in 4 businesses think they could have an extra 5 percent growth on top of their current prospects with the right online strategy