By @SimonCocking photo above by Conor McCabe

Delighted to catch up with Andrew Montague, @MayorMontague, ex website developer, Lord Mayor of Dublin, current Labour councillor and initiator of the Dublin Bikes Scheme. We spoke about his take on the Dublin tech scene, and his vision for it’s future.

Are you still a web developer, now that you are a Labour councillor?

I do very little web development now. I’m a councillor and I’m doing a part-time masters in Spatial Planning at DIT. I think the revamp of my own website will have to wait until after exams finish in May.

Dublin, ‘Silicon Docks’, where are we on the scale from the sexy name to having a lasting tech culture in Dublin and Ireland as a whole?

We have a mixed bag as far as digital and tech culture in Dublin. We have a lot of very successful Foreign Direct Investment companies in Dublin and the surrounding counties: Google, Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, eBay, Twitter etc. We’ve also got a lot of small/medium Irish tech companies doing well. The Digital Hub in Dublin is a successful environment for fostering these new companies. Where we come out poorly is getting non-digital Irish businesses online. We need Irish companies to get a web presence and start selling their products online. We are way behind Northern Ireland and the UK and losing a lot of income into the country as a result.

DCU innovation campus is relatively near to your area / ward, what potential spinoffs could you see / hope might come out of the startups based there?

DCU has a very positive role in the area. First of all as a university it does a lot to raise education standards, which is vital for economic development. DCU are also very well connected with industry and have a very strong focus on building those connections.

What is your vision for tech startups in the future?

In order for the tech sector to thrive, there needs to be strong investment in infrastructure such as broadband. But we must also invest in our community: there will be no tech sector if we don’t invest in education. Ministers for Education Ruairi Quinn and now Jan O’Sullivan placed a new emphasis on teacher training and insisted on focusing more on reading, writing and basic maths skills in primary schools. And this focus is paying off: we have just seen the first significant improvement in primary school results in over 30 years. We also believe that we need to invest in broadband.

As chair of Dublin City Council’s planning committee, I see my role to encourage the supply of high quality housing in the city. If we can increase supply of housing and apartments in the city, we can keep house prices and rent steady. If we can’t supply sufficient homes for people it will become too expensive to live in the city and businesses will chose to invest elsewhere. We’ve also got to supply enough office space to keep office rents under control.

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Lord Mayor, a great experience, you mentioned one of your highlights was meeting Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi , is there anything you would have done differently?

There are things that I would do differently if I was a directly elected Mayor for five years. A major role for the mayor is to promote the city and to encourage investment and tourism. I worked very hard at this, but with a five year term you could build stronger relationships with other cities. It was eye opening to me to see the access that the Lord Mayor of Dublin gets in cities like San Jose and at companies like Facebook and Google. That access is also there in important emerging markets in Asia and South America. A five year term would allow a mayor to build much stronger and more beneficial relationships that would benefit Dublin.

Dublin bikes has been a great success, well done on that, how might it continue to develop and expand into the future?

And thanks to you Simon for bringing the idea to me before I ran for election in 2004. 🙂

I look at traffic in Dublin and once again we are running into severe capacity problems as the economy begins to grow again. The M50 is reaching capacity and seeing more and more delay. I compare Dublin to cities like Copenhagen, where nearly half of all trips are done on bikes. This means Copenhagen can cope with growth and expansion without hitting massive constraints. We must invest more in cycling, walking and public transport. Our aim should be to spread Dublinbikes across the city, out to the suburbs, into Dun Laoghaire and Fingal. For example UCD is in Dun Laoghaire, but it should be served by Dublinbikes.

Do you think the same idea for cars and larger vehicles might take off, or will driverless cars form another link in a more personalised public transport system?

I think driverless cars will have a big impact on transport, but we just don’t know the timescales yet. I think the biggest impacts might be on deliveries. You can imagine fleets of HGVs travelling through our motorways at night, without drivers. This might help free up our roads during the day. Uber will also massively disrupt transport, and not just the taxi industry. It could have a major impact on deliveries.

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

I love my iPad and take it everywhere with me. I take extensive notes in just small text files than sync via Dropbox, giving me instant access to information on my phone, my iPad and my laptop. I have to say I’m also eyeing up the Apple Watch and just might get one when they become available in Ireland. I like the whole fitness tracking idea. I haven’t worn a watch in 15 years, and it might be nice to be able to tell the time again with just a glance.

DCC are taking a more proactive role on smart cities, solar and other positive initiatives, what would you like to see happen over next 5 – 10 years?

I’m a big fan of opening up data, such as the Dublinked data, and the Real Time Passenger Information data. When Dublinbikes first came out, JC Decaux weren’t happy to see the bike data being used by third parties. I think that was a big mistake and I’m glad to see that changed now. Big data will present a lot of opportunities for the future and we have to be open to making the most of those.

 

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