In effect, Londonderry’s culture bid has used the potential of digital media to turn that negative on its head.
In doing so it has also created enormous opportunities for Northern Ireland businesses to help deliver on that promise and create the digital platforms and content required. Who will deliver the websites and iPhone apps and software and animation and games and live streaming? We will. Who will edit the videos and develop the training programs and deliver the broadband and maintain the IT infrastructure? We will.
And when I say ‘we’ I mean the entire digital content and technology sectors in Northern Ireland. Provided we are up to the task.
But to capitalise on these opportunities we need to position ourselves appropriately. Direct investment in Derry and the north west is one clear path — whether that’s starting a business in the north west or forging relationships with companies that already have a presence or simply renting a hot desk in the city. We also need to start having the kinds of conversations that will ultimately influence how the nice ideas contained in the bid manifest themselves in reality — the digital media industry is well-placed to do this but we need to start talking the cultural sector’s language.
And, although I may be more than a little biased in saying so, everyone involved in digital media and technology needs to start having a look at the north west in terms of its growth potential in this space. In addition to the City of Culture win, the city itself is starting to get its digital ducks in a row with initiatives like Digital Derry, the city’s first ever digital champion (disclosure: I’ve been appointed to take up this role, hence the little bias) and the presence of emerging digital firms like Learning Pool and 360 Production.
For all the opportunities that the City of Culture and other efforts will bring however, it is the willingness and ability of our local digital industries to take advantage of them that will ultimately decide the outcome. But if we’re up to the challenge, it’s going to be a good few years to be digital up north.
Mark Nagurski is a blogger and event organiser based in Derry