Feb 05 2009

The Irish Knowledge Economy

Category: BusinessTeknovis @ 23:03

The Irish economy is in a very bad condition at the moment, and significant numbers of job losses are being announced every day. Indeed, January was the worst month for job losses in the last 40 years according to Jobless rate could hit 400,000 – Cowen. In a frighteningly short time Ireland has gone from having one of the best economies in the EU to having one of the worst economies in the EU.

Initially the job losses were mainly in the property sector, and the associated sectors. This was mainly due to the Government inflated property bubble bursting. Job losses then quickly spread to associated sectors such as banking, construction supply, and household goods.

Next some of the companies involved in the information communication technology sector started announcing job losses. One of the main reasons behind these job losses was the loss of competitiveness due to the high cost of doing business in Ireland. The failure to adopt the Lisbon Treaty has also been quietly mentioned by some multinationals as a reason for losing confidence in the Irish economy. For example, Dell is moving 1,900 jobs to Poland (see 1,900 jobs lost at Dell in Limerick), and IBM is moving 120 jobs to Singapore (see IBM seeking 120 voluntary redundancies). Although these job losses are unfortunate, they are not surprising given that they appear to be very labour intensive.

Today Ericsson announced 300 job losses in Ireland. The truly shocking thing about this is that these jobs are all very skilled Research and Development jobs. Furthermore, Ericsson is moving these jobs to a country with a lower cost of business. For more details about this see 300 jobs to go at Ericsson.

This raises some very important questions. Why did this happen? How does this reflect on the Irish knowledge economy? How secure is the Irish knowledge economy?

Contrary to all of this bad news, I also read today that Irish companies raised more venture capital in 2008 than they did in any other year since 2002. The total amount raised was over 240€ million by 93 companies, and the most successful sectors were:

  1. Drug delivery and medical device sector (16 companies raised 46€ million)
  2. Telecoms sector (9 companies raised 38€ million)
  3. Pharmaceutical and biotech sector (23 companies raised 42€ million)

For more details about this see Private funding for tech firms on the rise in 2008, survey shows.

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Jan 13 2009

The Calibre of Irish Software Engineers

Category: Second Level,Third LevelTeknovis @ 20:58

I read a really interesting blog post recently titled The hard truth about the Irish knowledge economy that is commenting on the fact that Google has decided to abandon its plans to create an additional 100 jobs in Dublin for software engineers. The apparent reason for this change is plan is that it has been unable to recruit staff of the right calibre.

According to the original newspaper article upon which this post is made, John Herlihy (Google’s vice-president for online sales and the head of its Dublin-based European headquarters) made the following comments:

We wanted to recruit up to 100 software engineers, but we couldn’t find candidates of the calibre we were looking for in Ireland

The jobs have been lost. We have since built different engineering teams in countries including Poland, Norway and Switzerland. We have a great team of 30 engineers here, but it could have been 100

Many of the comments in response to this post believe that Google actually cancelled these new jobs due to the changing economic circumstances. I actually tend to agree with this point of view, especially after I read Details about Google’s layoffs — actually, no, none. That article seems to suggest that Google is not very forthcoming in relation to its employment details.

John Herlihy is also attributed to saying:

I’m not sure the quality and the output of our third level [colleges] is as good as we think it is. There’s a huge amount of dumbing down at third level and second level

John Looney (a Google employee) makes the same argument in the response that he posted:

Most Irish computing graduates are crap, due to our apathetic university system.

I do not think that I would describe computing graduates as “crap”, but I understand why John is saying this. I would say that there are huge variations in standards between software engineering graduates. Many employers in Ireland share this opinion, as I described in IT Graduate Recruitment in Ireland.

John Looney continues:

… Ireland is just not an attractive location for high-end computing folk (wages vs. cost-of-living is rubbish).

Yes, I fully agree with him regarding the cost-of-living in Ireland. Furthermore, I think that the quality-of-life here is quite poor compared to many other EU countries.

John Looney continues:

It doesn’t help that most good Irish engineers get jobs through their friends, so have no interviewing experience…

I agree with John that a lot of good Irish software engineers get jobs through contacts and referrals, but I think that this is a good for both the potential employees and the employers. In my experience, recruitment by referral happens more in Ireland than any other country.

Finally, John Loney writes:

If the government is serious about a ‘knowledge economy’, we need real tech universities. Ones that fail people if they can’t pass the course (rather than make the course easier) …

My perception, and experience, is that the Irish universities are simplifying courses to ensure that failure rates remain low. I find it absolutely amazing that some Irish universities will accept students who do not have the highest level of maths into engineering courses!

I think that this simplification approach actually began within second level education. There are too many people choosing “easy” subjects that have no relevance to their chosen career paths.

Perhaps the most controversial opinion is one expressed by John Herlihy:

We’re throwing massive amounts of money at third level institutes. Too much. You can’t continue to throw public money after seven universities. You have to decide whether we only need two or three, and which of those will be top.

Wow! I bet that the Irish universities will not be happy with that opinion, but I actually think that it makes sense. However, I think that this is already changing, because money is now being invested into research groups that span multiple universities rather than replicating the same research on a smaller scale in each university. See Science Foundation Ireland Funded Research Groups for examples of this approach.

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Dec 12 2008

Google Zeitgeist 2008

Category: InternetTeknovis @ 19:33

Google published the Zeitgeist 2008 earlier this week. This shows the most popular searches on Google during 2008.

The results are broken down into separate results for each country, which is probably more useful than the overall results. One of the interesting things that I noticed is that the term Google is in the top 10 in many countries! I do not know why people search for this using Google, but my guess is that these people are not searching directly on the Google webpage. For example, I have Firefox configured so that I can type my Google search terms directly into the address bar.

It is also very interesting to see that certain terms that are directly related to well known websites, such as YouTube, appear in all of the EU results. Yet nearly all of the EU results have terms that are specific to the country or language. I do not recognise a lot of these ones!

The most popular search terms in Ireland were:

  1. Bebo
  2. Youtube
  3. Hotmail
  4. Yahoo
  5. Google
  6. Games
  7. You tube
  8. News
  9. Map
  10. gmail

Unfortunately, none of these search terms relate to Irish websites :(

The fastest rising search terms in Ireland were:

  1. Facebook
  2. utube
  3. google maps
  4. Youtube
  5. Nasza klasa
  6. Wiki
  7. RTE
  8. Maps
  9. Irish Times
  10. Yahoo! mail

Perhaps the most interesting search term on this list is for the Polish social networking website Nasza-Klasa. (This is the most popular search term in Poland.)

There is also an interesting observation about the list of most popular politicians in Ireland in Politician Declan Ganley more popular than Bertie says Google.

More details about the popular search terms in Ireland can be read in “Sarah Palin” the most searched query on Google. Unfortunately, Ireland is not included in the Google Zeitgeist page, and I am unable to find the official source!

The results presented by Google have been filtered to remove terms related to adult searches. I recall hearing that pornography related searches are by far the most popular. However, it seems that Google did not get the filtering totally right this time for the UK results. The original list (see Palin beats Obama in Google’s ‘zeitgeist’ rankings or 2008 Year-End Zeitgeist Around the World until the mistake is noticed) contained the term cam4 under the Fastest Rising category. Let me say that cam4 is certainly not suitable for viewing in work :o For more about this see Ooops, Google Zeitgeist lists a porn site.

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