While passing references have been made to digital policy within cultural policy and strategy for some time, implementation has been slow. In 2007, the Irish Manuscripts Commission drafted a digitisation policy including recommendations to government that a National Digital Strategy was required. They suggested that this responsibility should fall on the then Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. Phase 1 of Ireland’s National Digital Strategy (NDS) was launched in July 2013 by the Department of Communications. The main focus of the NDS is on ‘doing more with digital’, aiming towards a digitally enabled society. The strategy sets out a vision and a number of practical actions and steps to encourage and assist citizens and small businesses to get online. Phase 1 focuses on Business & Enterprise, Citizen Training and Schools & Education. The ultimate goal is the optimal economic and social use of the Internet by business, individuals and the government. Apart from a minor reference to the potential to development of creativity skills within digital skills education, arts or culture are not mentioned in the digitisation strategy.
The Government is now seeking to develop a new National Digital Strategy to progress further and grasp the opportunities offered by digitalisation and respond to its challenges. The newly formed coalition government of 2020 has maintained the strategy to roll out high speed broadband to the whole of the country under the National Broadband Plan through a combination of commercial and state investment. Another initiative that has enabled digital growth is entitled Smart Cities. The overarching aim of a smart city designation is to enhance the quality of living for its citizens through smart technology. 2016 saw the launch of Smart Dublin, a collaboration between Dublin’s four local authorities, which aims to engage with smart technology providers and researchers ‘to solve city challenges and improve city life’.
Culture Ireland’s strategy 2017-2020 makes specific reference to developing digital footprint potential internationally. The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media’s statement of strategy 2018-2020 makes a passing reference to the 2040 goals related to the digital economy. The only solid reference to digitisation is made in relation to the digitisation of the national archives, in line with the national development plan. The government strategy ‘Project 2040’ aims to upgrade the cultural infrastructure including large scale investment in the digitisation of the National Archives. The National Archives’ digital imaging policy (2016) is designed to support and facilitate the preservation of archives. The Digital Repository of Ireland stores digital data archives in humanities, social sciences, and cultural heritage.
The audiovisual sector has capitalised more than other cultural sectors on the opportunities offered by digitalisation. A national strategy for the development of skills for the audiovisual industry in Ireland prepared by the Screen Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) in 2017 placed emphasis on the need to develop digital skills reacting to the changes in convergence including digital platforms.