The broadband argument still rages. I was reminded of this while listening to Senator Shane Ross speaking at the IIA Net Visionary Awards recently. While he was clearly preaching to the converted on that particular occasion, there was no doubting his passion. Then I had a Utopian moment. What if there was complete saturation of broadband in Ireland? We seem to be perpetually standing in line behind this obstacle but what if broadband penetration was as extensive as mobile penetration? If every man, woman and child in the country had their own unique broadband connection, what would the resultant outpouring of productivity look like? Would there be a huge spike in GDP? Would Ireland become a glowing landmark for astronauts like the Belgian motorway network at night?
Perhaps it would be used to send large graphics files from Kilkenny to Sligo. Or empower the emergence of an indigenous Irish web giant. Or provide a platform for the James Joyce of the digital age. Or entertain us in our homes. In fact it will do all of these. And it will form the backbone of our intellectual infrastructure. Let’s face it we’re crap at physical infrastructure, things that are taken for granted in most countries don’t work here. I’m not just talking about the old chestnuts either –roads, railways etc. My local sorting office keeps losing my mail because (in their words) An Post is being overhauled and everything is in disarray. If I was on death row in San Quentin I would get my mail, but not in Dublin.
Anyhow, I digress. As a nation, we should be good at intellectual infrastructure. We should be as good at that as the Swiss are at inventing things. As a race we are creative, witty and even our large population of chancers are creative in their own right. Broadband can be the foundation of our intellectual infrastructure. However we should avoid concentrating our efforts solely on leveraging broadband for industrial productivity and third level education. We also need to nurture its use in schools, by the creative industries and for social networking. This needs to be the subject of a major government programme but it’s likely that getting the government on board will need to be the subject of a major programme in itself. Perhaps they could start by buying Ireland.com – only joking, but then that’s a joke that’s nearly as old as broadband.