Sectors & markets

Ireland’s digital exports now third largest internationally

Surpassing €300bn, digital exports are proving to be an economic sweetspot.

Digital Ireland Conference, held last week in Dublin Castle, underlines Ireland’s position as a digital leader at the heart of European and global digital developments. Newly appointed Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Peter Burke TD promulgated this message to tech leaders, regulators and policymakers gathered at the conference as he laid out his department’s and Ireland’s credentials in the digital world.

The conference could not have come at a better time following the release of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) report on Global Trade which shows Ireland’s exports of digitally delivered services stood at €309bn in 2023, registering a 10% increase from the previous year. The country’s performance has ratcheted up rapidly into the top three globally, just behind leaders USA and UK and substantially exceeding the digital output from Germany, India, and China.

Unlike the trade in goods, which fell in 2023, both in Ireland as well as in all regions globally, exports of digitally delivered services continued to thrive. According to WTO estimates, global exports of digitally delivered services reached €4 trillion in 2023, up 9% year-on-year.

The ever-expanding online world is driving the expansion of the demand for digital services. This ranges from government services to entertainment services and on to social networking and a vast range of business services. 

A typical governmental digital example is the Irish government’s ‘Connecting Government 2030’ strategy which aims to deliver 90% of government services online by 2030, with a target to get 80% of eligible citizens using MyGovID, where your digital twin will authenticate you and provide you pensions, digital passports, digital travel cards, to mention but a few.

Digital banking is well underway across Ireland provided by Revolut, N26, Money Jar, and Bunq. And the European Commission is in the final two-year phase of developing and launching a digital euro.

The digital trend can also be seen in the Port of Cork, which in March announced that it had engaged consultants to accelerate digitalisation at the port with a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered system. This latest step in the Port of Cork’s digital journey is expected to boost the efficiency of ship logistics, improve ship tracking, provide the best ship routing to minimise overall distance travelled, eliminate unnecessary journeys, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The WTO report indicates that in 2023, business, computer and communications services accounted for 61% of world exports of digitally delivered services, followed by financial, insurance, and pension services a further 21% and intellectual property-related services at 11% — all areas Irish based companies have excelled at.

Driving the very high ranking of Ireland in the global digital world is undoubtedly the major multinational technology companies located here and servicing Europe, middle-east, and Africa from their Irish base.

In particular, the triumvirate of Google, Facebook, and Amazon have been leading the blockbuster growth of the communications computer services exports from Ireland.

With such a substantial market control, upwards of 80%  in 2023, Google and Facebook have a strong influence over pricing, competition, and innovation within the digital advertising market, potentially leading to limited choices for advertisers and consumers. This level of dominance underscores the importance of government intervention and policing to ensure a balanced control of these tech giants who are shaping the digital landscape.



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