The annual Guaranteed Irish ‘Tech Think Tank

The annual Guaranteed Irish ‘Tech Think Tank’ event took place in the Blanchardstown office of indigenous Irish tech company and Guaranteed Irish Member, Viatel Technology Group, on Thursday April 27th. Hosted by Damien McCann, CCO Viatel Technology Group, the panel discussion featured industry thought leaders Paul Rellis, CEO Viatel Technology Group, Martina Naughton, Global Partner Sales Director Microsoft Ireland, and Ronan Whelan, CCO SIRO.

Throughout the discussion, the panel highlighted various important tech-sector topics, from jobs and AI to security, infrastructure and education. Paul Rellis, CEO Viatel Technology Group, highlighted the importance of job creation, particularly for indigenous Irish tech companies at such a difficult time in the tech-sector, saying “when you give someone a job, you give them an opportunity”. Paul went on to highlight how Ireland had become a leader in employment over the past 50 years, saying “there was 2.5million people in the country, total population, [whereas] today there is 2.5million people employed in the country”.

Martina Naughton, Global Partner Sales Director Microsoft Ireland, when asked about the issue of the gender pay gap, highlighted that, while there are many complex factors impacting the gender pay gap, we also need to explore how our education system can help alleviate bias at early stages. “If we consider, the ‘gender STEM gap’, up until Junior Cert, girls and boys cover the same profile of subjects, [but] come Leaving Cert, girls mainly participate in biology and chemistry while their participation in physics goes down.

“If you think about that trend and then you map it to the jobs market in Ireland, engineering and ICT roles generally command higher salaries, yet only 1/3 of those jobs are occupied by women. I believe fundamentally that to try and address the gender STEM gap, you need to look back earlier, at how we champion STEM subjects in our schools. This is why we created our Dream Space education hub five years ago – we have since seen a 42% increase in the likelihood of girls wanting to pursue STEM subjects after having a Dream Space experience.”

Martina went on to highlight the importance of digital skills, particularly for the future of jobs and employment in Ireland stating that, “90% [of jobs globally] will require digital skills within the next ten years”. She once again highlighted the importance of education in this sector, however, by pointing out that, “roughly only half of employees in Ireland say they have basic digital skills”. She brought to light the importance of initiatives such as Microsoft Ireland’s StepIn2Tech programme, which has supported thousands of learners to develop the digital skills required to transfer to emerging and in-demand roles within the digital economy.

Speaking on infrastructure in Ireland, Ronan Whelan, CCO SIRO, commented on the rollout of fibre broadband to Ireland which, after being an important topic of discussion in recent years, has become less of an issue because of the excellent work done on infrastructure rollout throughout the country. Ronan shared industry stats which state that “1.5 million homes are fibre ready”, highlighting the importance of fibre wires in new build developments in particular. Ronan goes on to state that “500,000 people [already] have fibre broadband…[and that] within 3-4 years you will see fibre across the whole of Ireland”.

Closing the event, Paul Rellis reinforced the need for Irish business to continue to invest in diversity, equality, and closing gender pay gaps, saying “the best team you can possibly have is the team that’s the most diverse”. An opinion which was seconded by Ronan Whelan who added that business leaders in Ireland should always “challenge [their] own ignorance” on topics such as diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias.

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