*Check Against Delivery*
Good afternoon everyone. It is a pleasure to be here today in Grange Castle, alongside Minister Humphreys to officially announce the expansion of Google’s data centre.
This €150 million investment will create 400 jobs during the construction and when finished will also increase Google’s headcount on the site.
Google’s total employment in Ireland is now over 7,000, between fulltime staff and contractors, across a range of functions. I am delighted that you have performed so well and that you continue to broaden and grow your operations here.
Your success in Ireland is a great tribute to your staff who have helped you establish such a firm footing.
I understand your Dublin team spans 60 nationalities and supports customers in more than 62 languages in over 100 markets. Your reputation as one of the best places to work in the country certainly seems well deserved.
I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Google as a good neighbour. Google has a positive impact on local communities through education programmes, mentoring local start-ups and volunteering by Google employees. This type of relationship between business and communities is to be applauded.
Google’s presence here reflects the confidence they have in Ireland as a business-friendly environment that supports enterprise development. They have really contributed to Ireland’s reputation as a technology and innovation hub which of course that has been key to our economic recovery in recent years.
But apart from the economic advantage it has given us as a nation, technology has transformed our personal lives. From a period within my lifetime where a home telephone was a luxury, technology now allows us carry a device that allows us to effortlessly connect with the entire world, whether it’s by video, voice or email. Technology has made the world more accessible and, used properly, has the capacity to improve the quality of our lives.
And, of course, the key driver of technology is Data. Data is the fuel that drives our collective ability to innovate and create and to provide for some of the wonderful technological advances that impact on our everyday lives.
The Government is very committed to ensuring that Ireland remains a world-leading location for data-related activities, including construction of data centres. These activities are a key part of our enterprise landscape and mark Ireland’s success as a leader in the digital sector.
Other Government actions to advance digitisation
The Government is working hard to ensure that Ireland remains positioned to embrace the opportunities that digitisation brings.
Next week, for example, I will host a meeting of the D9+ Group – an alliance of EU digital frontrunner states that rank highly on the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index. The group’s focus is on providing strategic oversight on digital policy issues and acts as a forum for the exchange of best practice.
We are committed to further building our international connectivity and developing our energy infrastructure, especially in terms of increased renewable energy generation and usage.
We have a strong talent pool with a steady stream of the key skills required in this sector; including data technicians and network engineers.
Ireland’s Data Protection Regime
But alongside hard infrastructures like energy grids, a strong and trusted data protection regime is very much a key part of the infrastructure in a modern economy. Data is valuable and, like everything of value, it is important that is protected and used responsibly.
I can see right across my own broader brief, which takes in employment, business and the digital single market, just how core data protection is to how businesses operate in the modern economy.
A strong data protection regime is one of the key factors in the decision making process for companies seeking to establish or expand their data centre operations. They, and in particular, their customers need to be confident that their data is safely stored and secured.
Key among my priorities is to maximise awareness among Irish organisations so that they are fully prepared for the GDPR which comes into effect on 25 May.
As you know, the GDPR provides us all with more clearly defined rights that will give us greater control over the use of our personal data.
For example, it will give us the right to obtain details of how our data is being processed; the right to obtain copies of data held; the right to have it corrected and the right to have that data erased where there is no legitimate reason for its retention, effectively a right ‘to be forgotten’.
GDPR will also mean that for the first time individuals may seek compensation through the courts for breaches of their data privacy rights.
Whilst enhanced privacy rights are essential, a strong and independent regulator is fundamental to ensuring that any alleged breaches of our rights as citizens are capable of being investigated and adjudicated upon.
Our Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, has an excellent track record in this regard and has earned the trust of the public and of enterprises – large and small- that operate in Ireland.
The significance attached to the role of the Data Protection Commissioner in the modern digital world, is reflected in the resources it receives to undertake its important work.
Since 2014, the Office has seen a six-fold increase in its budget to provide the level of expertise needed to deal with the evolving complexity and increased scale of digital technologies.
The Office has a dedicated team to regulate major data-driven multinationals that have their European headquarters in Ireland. Ireland’s data protection regime ranks among the best in the world, both in terms of its resources and its reputation for excellence.
Data protection is clearly a very busy and challenging area which impacts on all sectors of the economy and society.
But I firmly believe that Ireland is well-placed to deal with these challenges. Our presence here today in Google’s state-of-the-art data centre is testament to Ireland’s attractiveness as a place for innovative and progressive enterprise. It is our intention to protect and build on our success.
In closing, I want to congratulate Google on this expansion today and wish them every success in their future here. I would also like to acknowledge the team in IDA Ireland, whose tireless work and engagement with FDI companies has helped transform our economy and bring in companies like Google into Ireland.