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Luck of the Irish hangs on ecommerce

ROI wants to be major force in international ebusiness

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Ireland is looking to get a slice of the increasingly juicy ecommerce pie. Market watchers are saying that the industry will be worth an elephantine $1.3 trillion by 2003. And while the vast majority of the industry - about 80 per cent - is based in the US, but Ireland wants to bring some of it to the other side of the pond. Ireland is already the world's second largest software exporter, and it has been laying the foundations to become a centre of ecommerce. The government has deregulated the telephone system and is planning to lay more cables to increase network speeds. Forfas, the industrial development body, says that it aims to take Ireland to centre stage in the online world, able to offer a clement environment for the whole spectrum of services from distribution to logistics. The country already keeps it taxes low to encourage multinationals to bring their businesses to Ireland. As so many technology firms have established bases in Ireland, the country is now finding itself with an IT skills shortage. The Irish Software Association (ISA) has warned that this lack of experience is choking the industry's development. In some cases staff turnover is approaching 20 per cent, the organisation says. Financial services giant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that given Ireland's relative isolation in geographical terms, ecommerce's borderless nature would be a great boon to the country's economy. ®

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