While Ireland’s technology sector adjusted admirably to the COVID-19 crisis, it still faced many challenges. Entire workforces transferred to home offices, while safe operating methods had to be devised for workers in semiconductor manufacturing sites, data centres and other essential units. Many members have made significant changes to their own operations and this has already resulted in a lot of members looking at how they will structure work in the future and an increased preference for working from home where possible.
Our SME members are the most impacted by COVID-19, in particular medium sized indigenous tech companies who have the capacity to become multinationals in their own right who are struggling with liquidity issues. These members are too large for some of the liquidity measures announced by the Government and require much higher levels of support. The high wage profile of tech sector workers means the wage subsidy scheme is not of much benefit either. This is also a sector where experienced talent and skills are in huge demand and so employers face an increased fight to attract and retain staff.
A lot of the key issues for the tech sector are societal ones which are well covered throughout the Ibec Reboot, Reimagine campaign document, such as education and skills, housing and quality of life issues and sustainability. Therefore in the Technology Ireland section of the document we chose to focus on the things which would have the most direct impact outside those wider issues.
Firstly the short term or 100 day action calls include appointing a dedicated Minister for Digital Affairs who would coordinate digital policies and programmes across government, extending the SME credit guarantee scheme and reviewing it constantly based on company need and streamline Ireland’s work permit and visa application system which must be adequately resourced to avoid delaying the reboot operations of technology companies.
The phase two action issues will extend beyond the next 100 days and these are ensuring post Brexit data flows are not impacted, a mutual adequacy decision in a future relationship post-Brexit is essential. Increase investment opportunities in technology companies and ensure the tax system works to keep SMEs in business by Allowing flexibility on tax reporting deadlines and application of penalties.
Finally, the phase three actions which would support the Irish tech sector up to 2023 include making Ireland a leader in Govtech. This crisis has highlighted that every aspect of government must undergo digital transformation. Secondly by investing in skills development as all sectors are now increasingly digital and the competition for tech talent outside the tech sector is a significant issue and finally ensure full implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy. The upsurge in cybercrime attempts during COVID-19 has demonstrated the paramount importance of protecting ourselves.