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Technology is an industry that moves pretty quickly, which means at any given time there are dozens of smart people in Northern Ireland that are working on new projects, starting new companies and breaking new ground.
Which is a great thing — except that it means that there's also a constant marketing job that must be done to help showcase this emerging talent — not just locally but also globally. To address this challenge we need to get good at showing off a little — online, in print and through events.
Events like BarCamps and next week's Showcase event in Derry ( http://showcaseconf.com) serve three purposes — they keep people informed about the latest technologies, they give those smart people a platform to help raise awareness of their work and they're a perfect opportunity for a little networking, which, in turn, leads to more collaborations and more smart ideas.
We can take this to a much larger scale too — something that Invest NI have recognised through their support for companies wishing to travel to global events like [Texan music and interactive festival] South x Southwest (SXSW).
But perhaps the issue is deeper. I’d argue that point number one on our collective to do list is a change of perspective. Northern Ireland is at the edge of Europe — the good news is that doesn’t make as much of a difference in digital media as it might in other industries. What it does mean is that nobody’s going to come looking for us — we need to get our skates on and go to them.
Some of that we should do online. The great thing about the internet is that anyone, anywhere can check out your products and services. The problem with the internet is that they can also check out everyone else’s. So, if we’re going to try and make some noise online we need to make sure that what we have to offer stands up well to the competition.
Some of that will come down to having the ambition to create products and services that can change the world — not just our little corner of it.
But as much as I’m an advocate for all things digital, business is still about people — and people like to meet people. Take a look at some of our best local digital companies and the one thing you notice is how much they travel. They go to conferences, they go to networking events, they go to meet prospective customers.
In doing so, not only do they drum up new business but, perhaps more importantly, they make new connections, become part of the wider industry and are exposed to lots of new ideas.
And if all that sounds like taking a job in business development, then you’re right. That’s exactly what we need to do both on a business by business basis and as a region. The things that hold us back are not about a lack of talent or infrastructure but rather how we’re making use of those things.
It should go without saying that talent and ambition count, but you need to be prepared to take them out to the world and make your case.
Mark Nagurski is the newly appointed digital champion for Derry and |you can contact him via www.digitalderry.org