A major initiative to stimulate demand for broadband in Northern Ireland has been launched by Ian Pearson, MP, Minister with responsibility for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

The Invest Northern Ireland Broadband Stimulation Programmes aim to increase awareness of broadband technologies and the economic benefits they can bring, so as to increase access to and uptake of broadband by business.

The Programme was launched on the eve of a Broadband Symposium and Exhibition in Londonderry, jointly funded by Derry City Council and DETI, which was attended by business people and council representatives from across Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch Ian Pearson said: “Broadband is vitally important to the competitiveness of Northern Ireland companies in the global marketplace but currently the uptake rate here is below the UK average.

“Both my Department and Invest NI are committed to a broadband enabled Northern Ireland. To achieve this we need to develop the infrastructure to ensure that everyone can access broadband functionality.

“We also need to stimulate sufficient demand to open the way for telecoms providers to facilitate broadband access. And finally we need to refine the application of broadband to individual sectors to maximise its benefit.”

The awareness-raising element of the Stimulation Programme kicks off with a two-day exhibition of broadband technologies in Derry that will then travel to more than 15 regional locations throughout Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the initiative, Chairman of Invest NI, Prof Fabian Monds, said: “In partnership with the major telecommunications companies in Northern Ireland, Invest NI aims to raise awareness of the essential role broadband will play in the economy of the future.

“In the past Northern Ireland has benefited from its world class telecommunications infrastructure, but it could now fall behind economically if broadband uptake is not increased. Broadband offers business the opportunity to become more competitive by operating more efficiently. It is also essential that smaller companies can access it if they are to remain part of the supply chain of larger companies.”

Invest NI’s campaign consists of a programme of awareness backed up with a programme of practical intervention which will be both financial and advisory.
Regional broadband advisers will provide expert impartial face-to-face advice to companies, while SMEs will be financially assisted to implement broadband.

On the infrastructure side DETI is working closely with a range of public and private sector organisations throughout Northern Ireland to collaborate in technology trials to find the most appropriate broadband solution for each geographical location.