Online shopping economy warning
Online shopping could harm the economy as consumers choose to buy products from companies overseas, experts have warned.
Irish shoppers are expected to spend more than 20 billion euro a year online by 2017, but there are no plans to ensure that money stays in Ireland.
Government-backed Digital Hub Development Agency said a strategy is needed to ensure indigenous companies strengthen their share of the online market place to prevent an "immense" loss to the economy.
Chairman Leonard Donnelly said 75% of the four billion euro currently spent online goes overseas - mainly to the UK.
"The Digital Hub has projected that, by 2017, the online consumptive economy will be valued at 21 billion euro in Ireland," said Mr Donnelly. "If the trend for favouring overseas outlets for online purchases continues, however, the revenue loss to the domestic productive sectors will be immense."
The agency, which launched its annual report for 2011, said it had been working with Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte to develop a national digital strategy.
Opposition party Sinn Fein said part of that plan should be an increase in broadband coverage across the country. Jobs, enterprise and innovation spokesman Peadar Toibin criticised the minister for failing to roll out any fibre optic cable in his first year in office.
"We have the skills, expertise and entrepreneurial drive within the Irish technology sector to begin to realise the potential of this sector for economic growth and job creation," said Mr Toibin. "However this potential is being squandered by government inaction and piecemeal initiatives."
Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly said measures should include a focus on the new "video-net era", as websites move from from being text based to video based.. He said Ireland must mirror and surpass its biggest competitors in the sector - India and the UK. He said the Government could achieve this by ensuring "digital is at the heart of the economic agenda".
The Digital Hub, in Dublin's south-west inner city, is home to more than 70 digital enterprises - from start-ups to established businesses. Companies such as Daft.ie and Amazon have progressed through the project, which offers support to those trying to make the most of the digital world.