Galway – European Micro City of the Future


By Niall Ó Brolcháin, eGovernment Unit, Insight Centre for Data Analytics, NUI Galway

As the European Union’s most westerly city, the last stop on Europe’s Atlantic coast before the Americas, Galway is known throughout the world for its heritage, its culture and for the arts. It is known as ‘City of the Tribes’, a bilingual city where the Irish language or Gaeilge is still commonly spoken. It is the home of traditional Irish music and of traditional Irish culture but it is also an internationally focused city where English was once the 4th most popularly spoken language after Irish, French Norman and Spanish. It was a Spanish trading port visited by Christopher Columbus before his famous trip to the Americas.

Galway also has an enormous tradition of innovation. It is famously the place where Marconi transmitted the first radio message to North America, the final destination for Alcock and Brown who made the first transatlantic flight and the place where James Lovelock developed his Gaia theory.

Today it is known as a clean tech hub. There is a thriving medical device sector in Galway. Companies such as Medtronic and Boston Scientific are integral parts of Galway City. Galway also has a powerful ICT sector including Hewlett Packard, IBM, SAP, Cisco, Oracle, Avaya and many more. It was the first Irish City to win the European Energy award and was recently crowned as European Micro City of the year.

Galway Tech Map

Tech Map of Galway by John Breslin, Insight Centre for Data Analytics @ NUI Galway

Galway is currently exploring ways to harness the power of data and technology to make our city a better place to live, work and play in partnership with the community sector and one of Europe’s largest ICT research centres, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

Galway City is in the process of building a smart city dashboard, making information available online derived from multiple sources of data. Sensor derived data will combine with statistical information and crowd sourced data to provide a complete picture of all aspects of human activity. The initial areas to cover include the following:

  • Planning data.
  • Environmental data.
  • Transport data.
  • Health and education data.
  • Housing data.
  • Data relating to recreation and amenities.
  • Community related data.
  • Access for all data.
  • Electoral data.

Galway City has had the title of fastest growing city in Europe and in the 2011 census it consisted of 75,529 people with the City’s population growing at a rate of over 10 percent in the 4 preceding years. This is on top of a 15% growth between 1996 and 2002. There are a further 62,238 people who live within a 30 minute drive of the city centre.

Almost 60% of Galway City’s population is between the ages of 15 to 44 according to the census. If you look at the 15 to 24 age grouping, 30% of the population are in this age range. Approximately half the population over the age of 15 is at work and a further 17% are students.  Galway City has a high proportion of people who describe themselves as part of the socio-economic classes of professional and/or manager and technical – approximately 40%. It has the highest level of young entrepreneurs in Ireland which in turn has one of the highest levels of entrepreneurs in Europe.

The University is being developed as a smarter, greener healthier campus. The campus forms a large part of Galway city. It was founded in 1845 with an initial intake of 63 students in 1849, NUI Galway is now a thriving institution with over 17,000 students, of which over 2,000 are international students representing some 92 countries across the globe. The campus consists of 90 buildings on 105 hectares of land.

Galway is the capital city of the Irish province of Connacht which includes the county areas of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon. The Western Region of Ireland is an area of great natural beauty and high amenity value on the Atlantic coast. Galway is the most Westerly city in Europe and as former US President John F Kennedy famously remarked ‘If the day was clear enough, and if you went down to the bay, and you looked west, and your sight was good enough, you would see Boston’. It is a very popular tourist destination and is very careful to guard its very unique character.

Galway is a micro city of the future and its culture is rich and diverse with an international outlook. The depth and richness of its culture is without parallel in Ireland. It is a young city and is hungry for new and exciting opportunities.

Niall Ó Brolcháin is a researcher with the eGovernment unit of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and an ICT consultant. He has acted as an advisor on to the Irish Government. Previously he was a Government Senator and acted as spokesperson on Communications Energy and Natural resources in Seanad Eireann. He also served as Mayor of Galway City from 2006 to 2007.

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