Job losses are a wake-up call, Ireland needs to be agile and responsive to tech disruptions

THE RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT of hundreds of job losses across plants in Clare and Cork was something of a shock to the FDI system.

Industries are rapidly changing in tandem with innovation and Ireland needs to be agile if it wants to avoid further job losses. 

In the 2019 Global Innovation Index produced by INSEAD and Cornell University, Ireland was ranked as the 12th most highly innovative nation on the list.

This would suggest that in terms of innovation overall, Ireland is not doing badly. However, this year marks the first year in the history of the index that Ireland has not placed in the top 10.

According to the findings in the report, Ireland’s level of innovation is wavering. Concurrently, Israel has risen from 17th place in 2017 to take 10th place, which Ireland held up until this year.

There is a correlation between Israel’s rise in the ranking and its investment in relatively nascent industries, such as the blockchain industry.

While state agencies such as the IDA (through Blockchain Ireland) and Enterprise Ireland have been supportive of blockchain, there has been little willingness on the part of the government to advance this rapidly expanding industry. 

Role of lawmakers 

In recent years, the Israeli government has implemented stringent laws on cryptocurrencies and companies associated with blockchain technologies.

What may be perceived as a short-term stifling of the industry is a positive for the industry – offering stronger customer confidence, weeding out nefarious players and offering credence to more legitimate companies with accredited offerings.

Aside from this legislation, the Israeli government has adopted blockchain in many ways. The Israel Securities Authority announced its implementation of blockchain to ease cybersecurity concerns, and the ITA (Israel Tax Authority) partnered with a cryptocurrency exchange. 

The innovation in Israel mirrors the work of the Chinese government, which just recently passed a ‘crypto-law’ creating a new regulatory authority tasked with certifying digital payments and blockchain products.

The Chinese Central Bank is also developing a digital currency, the digital renminbi, which is seen as a potential competitor against Facebook’s ‘Libra.’

The widespread use of digital currencies on China’s WeChat Pay and Alipay platforms has led to increased investment on the part of the Chinese government, not only in blockchain and cryptocurrencies but also in enhanced legislation to ensure the protection of users. 

Need to be agile 

Ireland needs to be agile and responsive to technological disruptions if it wants to avoid job losses like those announced this month.

Ireland’s slide in global innovation rankings illustrates the direct impact of hesitance to adapt with the times.

If Ireland does not want to be left in the wake of increasingly innovative countries like Israel and China, the willingness of political decision-makers to maintain and enhance Ireland’s attractiveness for disruptive technologies will be key.

As we enter the future of work, gaining a foothold in technologies such as blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence will be imperative to Ireland’s sustained economic growth, upholding the high-value presence and growth of innovation-led sectors and ensuring the procurement of high paying jobs for the wider Irish populous in these lucrative industries. 

Lory Kehoe is the managing director of ConsenSys Ireland.

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