Parliamentary Question: Ministerial Advisers Remuneration

Question to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr. Alex White, TD)

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount spent by his Department on special advisers for each of the past four years; the way this compares to the four years 2007 to 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer

For WRITTEN ANSWER on Tuesday, 20 January 2015.

REPLY

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Posted under Communications, Parliamentary Questions, Public Expenditure & Reform

Parliamentary Question: Supporting online businesses

Question to Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr Alex White, TD)

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the supports available to businesses to develop innovative websites to enable growth of online trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer.

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 10th December, 2014.

REPLY

Digital adoption by businesses is a priority for Government. It is estimated that Irish consumers spend more than €6bn online annually and this figure is set to almost double by 2020. With up to 70% of Ireland’s annual online spend currently going overseas, targeting Irish businesses for online trading is a key jobs and economic imperative. In Ireland today, however, less than 1 in 4 small businesses are selling to customers online.

To address this challenge, my Department launched a national Trading Online Voucher Scheme in July last, following a pilot in the Dublin area. This is a key initiative under the Government’s National Digital Strategy and is included in the Action Plan for Jobs. Working in partnership with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office network, the Scheme offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 to small and micro businesses to develop their online trading capability. It aims to get 2,000 small businesses trading online by the end of 2015, as well as catalysing action from other small and medium sized enterprises. The Scheme has the capacity to bring new sustainable Irish jobs to all parts of Ireland.

Early indications from the Dublin pilot were positive, with companies saying they had experienced or envisaged more sales and were expecting to recruit as a result. More information on this scheme can be found on my Department’s website at www.dcenr.gov.ie/nds and on the websites of each Local Enterprise Office.

Other initiatives include the WebActivate programme which is operated by the Digital Skills Academy, based at the Digital Hub. It assists Irish businesses to develop their online presence and open themselves up to the advantages of the internet, such as business efficiencies, and access to global markets. The IE Domain Registry also operates the Optimise Fund to assist small businesses to optimise their websites using professional consultancy, experience and insight that might otherwise be beyond their budgets or resources.

Posted under Communications, Parliamentary Questions

Parliamentary Question: Internet Pornography

Parliamentary Question for the Minister of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte TD)

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on introducing legislation to block children from accessing adult Internet sites on their smart phones; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The protection of children in so far as this issue is concerned is paramount and there are a number of initiatives already in place in this respect, notably through the Department of Education’s resources and support for parents and children as well as the various initiatives carried out by the Office for Internet Safety. It is also essential that children, young people and parents are educated as to the risks that can be found online, that parents and teachers are supported in explaining these issues to children and that the optimal technical solution to protect children is identified. In this regard, there are a range of tools available online to assist parents in managing internet access. The industry also shares in the responsibility to take all reasonable steps to protect children and I have met the Internet Services providers (ISPs) and mobile operators to explore these issues in detail. The industry has already rolled out a variety of measures and resources, with software and other tools available to help parents ensure online safety for their children.

I remain to be convinced that a blanket or ‘default on’ blocker such as that implemented in the UK would achieve the desired ends particularly in respect of smart phones and other mobile devices. I also question whether, in fact, it is open to Governments to impose a blanket or general obligation of this nature on ISPs. What we need to ensure is that the State responds appropriately and in a manner which is effective, workable and respects the rights of individuals. Work is continuing to identify measures which might prove effective. To this end I set up the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group in December of last year. The Group are considering issues such as that raised by the Deputy and will report to me in May. I intend to bring this report to Cabinet and the Joint Oireachtas Committe.

Posted under Communications, Parliamentary Questions