The Death of the IFSC?
Last week Twitter, which employs 170 people in Dublin, told all of its employees that they can work from home “forever.” It soon became clear that Twitter was just a first in a series of dominoes. Shopify (employing over 300 in Ireland), Spotify and most significantly Facebook (employing 4,000 here) all followed suit this week. And it’s not just the tech giants. Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays Bank recently commented that “the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”

In many ways what we’re seeing is an acceleration of 5-10 years worth of change over the course of just a few months. Everyone (who could) took the plunge, invested in their home office setup, changed business practices to allow for remote working. James Gorman CEO of Morgan Stanley has said they have “proven we can operate with no footprint. That tells you an enormous amount about where people need to be physically.” The wider fund management industry employs 14,000 in Ireland.

What are the implications for our cities (Silicon Docks and the IFSC in particular) – if this becomes a permanent trend? Or a 5-10 year de-urbanisation trend? I think there are a few important areas work considering:

  • The most obvious is transport. What happens when 10,000 fewer people need to move in and out of Dublin each day. Or 50,000? That would be 38% of the total as of the last census.
  • Our FDI and broad industrial policy may need rethinking too. Facebook, Google et al have their accounting units based here for tax purposes, but they also have their larger EU offices here for the ability to attract bright young people from across the globe to work in their Dublin office. What happens when those bright young things don’t need to come to Dublin?
  • There is possibly a knock on effect for innovation. These companies are a great place for like-minded people to meet, learn and start companies together. In many ways they have acted like University Campuses for Ireland. Is this destined to change?
  • The return-on-investment on any sort of broadband infrastructure, including rural broadband, grows more compelling with every passing day.

TikTok Usage in Ireland
It was reported in Jan that 870k Irish people have installed the app, but usage figures were generally unknown. Vodafone recently ran the first ad campaign on TikTok in Ireland. The figures they shared give an interesting glimpse into how popular the app has become here. Over just 24 hours their ad was viewed 1.7 million times. The ad was set to show every time a user opened the app, and TikTok reports that the average user checks their app 5 times per day, which would imply there are now approximately 340k daily active Irish users of TikTok. Link.

Payout for Content Moderators
In an effort to keep Facebook free from abuse, violence and other bad activities, the company employed 30k people globally to review and remove offensive material. Many of these moderators were based in Dublin. Facebook scaled this activity very fast, but it didn’t scale proper supports or procedures for these workers and many have suffered depression, anxiety and PTSD as a result. In the US this week a payout settlement of $52m was reached for the workers there. Content moderators here initiated legal proceedings last September, but not result for them yet.

Contact Tracing. 
A good overview from the BBC on the difference between centralised and de-centralised contact tracing apps that most countries are looking at. Link.

Facebook bought Giphy for $400m
The price tag probably makes more sense expressed as “0.06% of Facebook’s total worth” rather than “almost half a billion dollars”, but it’s still eye watering for a company that does animated gif reactions. There’s probably a wider advertising component to the price tag (the Giphy infrastructure is used in Instagram, Twitter and most other popular social media and messaging apps), but it’s also a reminder of how much we humans need visual queues in communication. Our journey with mobile messaging has been a constant endeavour to enhance the flat written word with facial expressions, from emoticons :- ) to emojis 🙂 to animated reaction gifs. Link.