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Digital Hub Me Arse

It is almost a truism in Dublin to say that the Digital Hub project, which is supposed to provide an environment to cultivate Ireland’s famous talent for writing and producing, is a bit of a joke. Calling a country where broadband costs are several-fold higher than almost anywhere else in the world a ‘digital hub’ is obviously laughable.

But the joke just isn’t funny anymore. The website and the plans they’ve developed are just plain insulting to hard working people in the Irish new media industries.

The website is confusing and the information on it is mostly irrelevant. It has a newsletter, but it really isn’t a newsletter at all. It covers up the fact that there isn’t much happening by being full of fairly trite essays full of the editors’ views of the world legitimised with a bunch of research thrown together without much thought.

It is full of techie-sounding but ropey technology information. Don’t believe anything you read on these pages about technology. You probably won’t read it anyway. If you don’t know anything about the subject, you will be confused. If you do, it will all seem terribly simplistic.

The section about digital movies is plain insulting. It gives a bunch of examples of digital moviemaking by US producers. Could they not have found a few producers of Irish films and made a write-up on them? If I were an Irish digital film-maker (and there are many, some with academy award nominations to their credit) I’d be pretty insulted.

There is a focus on techie stuff, rather than on content. In one section, they ask for submissions for their exhibit, ‘Projected Windows’. This is basically a wide video screen facing onto the Street. They give a bunch of technical specifications (which are explained very badly) and asks producers to just send in submissions. They don’t say what criteria they will use to choose videos to show in their window. Do they want fairly abstract work (such as the current exhibit) or would they accept something more direct, political even? They don’t say.

The office facilities they’re offering for small companies is just pathetic, given the state of the economy. I’m sure it’s beautifully laid-out, and very well-equipped, but all the reports I’ve heard are that it’s too expensive by half. Reality is, media production is a very low-margin business. Small companies just can’t afford to rent fancy premises. Anyway, there’s a glut of office space in the Dublin property market at the moment.

Remember, this isn’t some venture capitalist’s dream that’s being executed. The government is chucking your hard-earned tax euros into this. Why are they bothering? Why can’t they support the people who are working and innovating already, instead of setting up a bunch of new bureaucracy involving people who don’t even know what’s going on in the local scene?

The government should cut its losses with this project and stop now. The people involved just don’t understand. It doesn’t matter how much money is spent or how many project managers are applied to it. The plan is all over the place and the execution is even worse. You can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

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  1. Right on. The Digital Hub is one of the most difficult government projects to understand, and I’d rate it as being a far bigger waste of money than the Bertie Bowl. Of course, both projects being run by Magahy & Co – perhaps there’s a pattern there.

    Doesn’t the very idea behind the project miss the point? This country is tiny in comparison to the other major players (say the US, and in future India and China). Shouldn’t we be able to turn the entire country into a digital hub, not just a few streets in Dublin? As you say, broadband here is a joke, so that can’t happen.