When the ICS was set up in 1967, computing was a new industry, with a few hundred people employed in Ireland between computer hardware suppliers (dominated by IBM), commercial enterprises (including the public sector) and a small services sector. The increasing dependence on computers to carry out routine business functions created the need for operationally reliable and dependable systems (hardware and software) and for IT professionals to design, build, manage and operate these systems.

Before the ICS was formed, people that were involved in information technology, its applications and in professionalism, could become members of the British Computer Society (BCS) which had been formed in 1957. Ten years later, Irish IT professionals recognised that with increasing numbers of people being employed, there was a need for an Irish organisation for IT professionals, along the lines of the BCS. The ICS was formed on 19th July 1967 with initial Memorandum and Articles of Association. In 1973, new Memorandum and Articles of Association were adopted, based on BCS models; these facilitated cross membership recognition between both organisations. The link with the BCS has been an important one from the outset and remains strong to this day both with the BCS’s Belfast Branch and its head office, currently in Swindon.

Some of the original purposes were:
  • The promotion of knowledge of the development and use of IT and techniques;
  • The establishment and maintenance of standards in the interests of professional IT practitioners;
  • The facilitation of the exchange of information and views on IT, and informing public opinion;
  • The organisation of conferences and meetings to assist in the dissemination of information, in Ireland and overseas.


Seymour Papert designs LOGO

Seymour Papert with LOGO 'turtle'


Robert Metcalfe and Dave Boggs, creators of Ethernet

Linking the Office: Ethernet and Local Networks

From its beginnings, ICS members were drawn from user organisations, the IT services sector, universities and third level technical colleges, and software and hardware manufacturing organisations. In its earliest years, membership was dominated by people who had job titles largely associated with “mainframe” computing such as “systems analyst”, “programmer” and “data processing manager”. The passage of time has led to new areas of specialisation (such as business analysis, the internet, data security, communications technologies, data protection etc.); in line with these changes, IT professionals have an increasingly diverse range of skills and interests.

Throughout its existence, the ICS has maintained its focus on IT professionals. The individuals that set up the Society would recognise the same organisational objectives, interests and services. They would also be impressed at the way that these have been successfully developed, particularly over the last twenty years. The ICS is a success and sees its future as continuing to recognise and meet the needs of IT professionals.

For much of the last 50 years, information technology has driven changes to society and to employment, and it has facilitated globalisation and the wealth of nations, with both positive and negative consequences. Looking forward to the next 50 years, it is likely that the services that has occurred in the meantime. applications of technology on those employed in many traditional professions, including IT, will be radically altered through increased automation and access to knowledge by means of the intelligent analysis of data.

In this environment, the ICS will need to continue to provide services (and evidential proof) that individuals develop their knowledge/skills and keep up-to-date throughout their careers. This is in the interests of both employers and employees. However, in the world of 2017, there are many uncertainties not least those arising from global politics and nationalism, the questioning of the current economic models, security and ethical issues. Upheavals arising from these may be the most significant factors that affect the IT profession, and consequently the ICS, over the next 50 years.

   Structure and Organisation  

The Society has undergone significant structural and organisational changes over the last 50 years. Up until the early 2000s, the ICS was run by a Chairperson (who filled the role of a voluntary, hands-on “managing director”) and an elected Council, assisted by a part-time or, later, a full-time Secretary. Its activities and impact were directly affected by two significant factors: dependence on volunteers (with the exception of the secretary) and limited financial resources (the main sources of income were membership subscriptions and seminars). Every year, the Society strived to make a small surplus. This surplus was never sufficiently large to increase staffing levels or provide the level of service to which the Society aspired for its members and for the wider public. The challenge that all Chairpersons and Councils faced was ensuring that membership was seen as being of continued value to the individual and organisations, in an industry that was changing very rapidly.

Despite the limited resources, individual members believed that the Society should not only maintain an Irish focus but it should also participate in international informatics organisations; this was achieved with limited, or no, direct support from the Society.


Sony releases the PlayStation 2

PlayStation 2 game console


Dot Com Crash

The Dot Com Boom…and Bust

For much of the period up to the early 2000s, membership hovered in the region of 800 to 1,200 people. The transition to a more professionally run organisation that provided the kinds of services to which the Society aspired was achieved through the success of European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) and the royalties that it provided. The Society was no longer as dependent on the efforts of volunteers (although volunteers continue to provide an important oversight and decision-making role on Council); permanent staff members were recruited to administer the Society, organise events, and, most importantly, increase the range of services provided. Where previously the ICS Chairperson was responsible for such functions, in the early 2000s, this role was now carried out by the CEO making the role of Chairperson unnecessary. From a corporate governance perspective, the Society’s President is accountable for the Society’s affairs and finances and reports annually to members at the Society’s AGM; he/she chairs Council meetings and provides guidance and support to the ICS CEO and staff – a position of oversight rather than “hands-on”.

In a further development, new linkages have been developed between the Society and other professional and special interest bodies.

In 2003, a cost-sharing services agreement was agreed between the ICS and the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) – Ireland, the body set up by the ICS and tasked with the development and roll-out of the ECDL in Ireland (see below). Under this services agreement ECDL – Ireland provides all administrative functions to the Society including event management and membership services. This agreement contributed to the growth of ICS through streamlined operations and management with Jim Friars holding the position of Chief Executive of both organisations since January 2004.

In line with the increased levels of activity in the Society, the Society has expanded. There are now 32 full-time employees in 2017, reflecting the increase in the Society’s membership (now over 8,500 people), activities and services, which have necessitated several office moves. In the early days, a number of organisations provided the ICS with office space at little or no cost: this generosity was important for the survival of the Society when funding was almost entirely dependent on membership fees. Latterly, from an office rented from Engineers Ireland in Clyde Road the Society moved to Crescent Hall, Mount Street Crescent (in 2003) and then, in 2013, to larger facilities and premises in Pembroke Road. In Pembroke Road, there are state-of-the-art facilities – facilities that the founders of the ICS could never have envisaged in their wildest dreams.


MySpace founded logo

   European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)  

In the mid-1990s, CEPIS (the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies – the ICS was a founding member) purchased the European rights to a Computer Driving Licence concept and model that had been developed by the Finnish Computer Society. CEPIS saw the potential that this offered on a European basis and set up a project to create a standard set of materials, to pilot the initial version and to put in place the necessary legal frameworks between CEPIS, member societies and a new pan-European (and, now, international) organisation (the ECDL Foundation) responsible for developing, running and monitoring the ECDL on a continuing basis. From the outset, the ICS participated actively in the CEPIS project.

In parallel with the European project, a small team of ICS members who were enthusiastic about the ECDL saw the potential that the ECDL had in Ireland and they ran Irish pilots leading to the Irish launch of the ECDL.

The ECDL has become the biggest IT education programme in Ireland. It is expected that in 2017, twenty years after its launch, ECDL will enrol its 800,000th student. It is a credit to the success of the ECDL in Ireland, and the resulting development of the ICS, that the ICS and ECDL-I CEO, Jim Friars, has been Chairman of the ECDL


Java 1.0 is introduced

Java logo

By 1997, the ECDL was ready for launch:

Version 1 of the ECDL (consisting of seven modules: Basic concepts of IT; Using the Computer and Managing Files, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Databases/Filing Systems, Presentations and Drawing, and Information Network Services) had been completed. Over the years, there have been many changes and enhancements, reflecting the changing nature of IT and the spread of the internet into all aspects of society.

The European Computer Driving Licence Foundation was formed (with offices in Dublin), to manage the ECDL concept across Europe and internationally. The first Managing Director of the ECDL Foundation was Dudley Dolan.

Each participating country established a licencing arrangement with the ECDL Foundation.

The ICS set up an organisation – ECDL – Ireland – with its own independent board of directors to manage the development and roll-out of the ECDL in Ireland. ECDL – Ireland is a registered charity that shares many of the same objectives as the ICS. ECDL – Ireland trades under the name of ICS Skills. This structure has successfully facilitated the growth, and oversight, of the ECDL and other developments. Since 1997, there have been three chairmen of the board: Paul Holden, Michael O’Connor and Maria Loomes.

   Events and activities  

And there were many important events that were held, driven largely by voluntary effort and the friendly support of sympathetic organisations. Looking back over these years, some of the significant events were:

   Annual ICS-BCS joint conference, hosted on alternate years at various locations in the Republic or, when in Northern Ireland, in Newcastle, Co. Down. These events lasted a couple of days and included talks from young entrepreneurs, industry leaders and educationalists. They were continued throughout the period of the “troubles” and were a popular opportunity for networking. Many strong business and personal relations were forged at these meetings. In the 1990s, interest declined to the point where it was no longer viable to hold them. However, for many years they were an active demonstration of cooperation – North and South.

   Lecture series. Throughout the lifetime of the ICS, there have been a regular series of lectures, from technical experts, project managers, university lecturers, software/hardware vendors etc.; these are free to ICS members. Examples for some of the topics include in the 1990s Developing Multi-Media Applications, Neural Networks, Client-Server System Building and Object Oriented Programming. Long before the days of Continuous Professional Development (CPD), the ICS lecture series provided an opportunity for IT professionals to develop an appreciation of topics outside their particular areas of expertise/work, and to share experiences. Up until the early 2000s, the Society’s Activities Committee organised a schedule of topics; in more recent years, this responsibility has been carried out by the Society’s permanent staff. In addition to the regular series of lectures, ad hoc lectures were also organised when industry experts visited Ireland, at the invitation of vendor organisations or third level institutions.


Doom is released


   Local conferences. Since its early days, the ICS has organised conferences focusing on a broad spectrum of topics including areas of technical or professional interest, mainly in the Dublin area. Some of the more recent conferences have included IT Leadership, IT Architecture, Business Analysis, Data Protection, IT Training and Health Informatics. These conferences have enabled IT professionals to keep up-to-date and to listen to, and question, Irish and international experts.

   Newsletter. Before the internet, it was a challenge to keep in touch with members and to keep them informed about the Society and activities on a quarterly basis. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Society’s Newsletter became a key means for communicating with members in a pre-internet age.

   International Conferences. Through the efforts of individual ICS members, major international conferences have been attracted to Ireland. Whilst the content of these conferences was their prime raison d’être, they also served to put Ireland “on the map” from an IT perspective at a time when the government, through the IDA, was trying to attract international hardware, software and services companies to set up European bases in Ireland. Some of these are (or will be):

  • 1982 – Medical Informatics Europe (Rory O’Moore of Trinity College Dublin was the Irish lead).
  • 1985 – 3rd IFIP International Conference on Computer Security.
  • 1986 – IFIP World Computer Congress on Information Processing (Dudley Dolan of Trinity College Dublin was the Irish lead).
  • 1990 – 2nd International Conference on Databases in Parallel and Distributed Systems, Dublin, July 1990 (Jane Grimson of Trinity College Dublin was the Chair)
  • 1993 – 19th International Conference on Very Large Data Bases (Jane Grimson was the General Chair).
  • 2013 – eHealth Week. This was hosted by the ICS on behalf of the Irish Department of Health, the European Commission and the Irish Presidency of the
  • Council of the European Union. The event ran over five days and had three main venues: Dublin Castle, Kilmainham Hospital and the Dublin Convention Centre. It was the biggest event of the Irish Presidency of the EU that year.
  • 2016 – IASA World Conference (Paddy Baxter was the Irish lead).
  • 2017 – Turing lecture. The speaker will be Dr. Guruduth Banavar, IBM Vice-President of Cognitive Computing, leader of the world-wide team that created Watson.
  • 2017 – IFIP 11th World Conference on Computing in Education. (Denise Leahy is the Irish lead).

   Competitions. In 1995 a European Software Developers Competition was held in Dublin. In 2013, there was a Health Informatics Society (Ireland) (HISI) Health Hack. Every year, the ICS hosts the Scratch competition to help nurture up-and-coming coding talent, and it also runs the F1 competition for schools. These last two coincide with the annual TechWeek which the Society runs in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland.

   Membership of international bodies  


FCC issues Net Neutrality decision

Net neutrality protest sign

The ICS benefits from its international relationships because of the connections that are made with the wider community of IT professionals. Three of the most significant international relationships have been:

   IFIP. (International Federation for Information Processing) founded in 1960, with links to around 50 national and international societies and academies of science. Some individual ICS members participate in IFIP technical committees and others, over the years, have held positions on the IFIP Executive Committee; Mike Hinchey was elected President of IFIP in 2016 for a three-year term.

   CEPIS. (Council of European Professional Informatics Societies) formed in 1988 by a group of nine (currently, thirty-three) European computer societies, one of which was the ICS. This body seeks to promote cooperation between computer societies. The ECDL was facilitated by CEPIS and most CEPIS member societies have benefited from this initiative. Peter Morrogh was CEPIS President from 1999 to 2001.

   ACM. (Association for Computing Machinery).

   ICS and the education sector  

From an early stage, the Society recognised the need for third level establishments to provide courses that would (a) assist graduates to find jobs in the IT profession and (b) be of value to employers. In the October 1979, under the leadership of the ICS, a representative group of IT professionals drawn from across the computing industry prepared an initial Computer Industry Joint Education Committee (CIJEC) report that set out syllabi for courses in computer programming and information processing designed to meet the emerging needs of organisations supplying and using IT. A second report was published in July 1984 that reflected the rapid advances in technology and was intended to assist those planning and delivering third level courses. This report was a very significant contribution to both third level colleges and the IT profession. It became the basis for computer courses in the regional Technical Colleges throughout Ireland. Both these reports were ground-breaking at the time and reinforced the ICS’s long-held relationship with, and contribution from, universities and third level colleges. In addition to the two CIJEC reports, a number of IT professionals, working in commercial and public sector organisations, supported third level programmes by lecturing and providing their practical experience on topics such as analysis, design, programming etc.; so, over many years, there have been close links between the ICS and third level bodies.


Microsoft Office 365 logo

The Stable Release of Microsoft Office 365 is Unveiled

In recent years, representatives from all major Irish third level computing faculties have sat on Society executive boards including TCD, NUIG, UCD, UL and DIT.

In 2013, the ICS took over the responsibility for the Certificate in Business Analysis, a one-year programme run by National College of Ireland.

In 2016, a Masters (MSc) in Applied IT Architecture was launched by the Institute of Technology Tallaght, in conjunction with ICT Ireland Skillnet, the Ireland branch of IASA Global (International Association of Software Architects) and ICS Skills.

Outside third level programmes, the ICS continues to upport third level IT students through offering them free membership of the society for the duration of their degree and one year after graduation.

ICS runs a number of programmes to support third level computing including:

  • Third Level Computing Forum
  • Education Partner Programme
  • Regular College Visitation

Beyond the Society’s involvement with third level establishments, the ICS has been involved in the promoting the use and education of IT in primary and secondary schools. In its early years, the Society cooperated with the Computer Education Society of Ireland (CESI). From around 2010 onwards, the Society has actively lobbied government to increase the level and quality of IT taught in Irish primary and secondary schools and has sought the development of a national IT curriculum which focuses on computational thinking, programming techniques and core user skills. In 2013, ICS Skills launched the Computing Curriculum for secondary schools junior cycle; 45 schools ran successful pilots in 2012/13.


Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-size single board computer, is released as a tool to promote science education

Raspberry Pi computer

   IT Professionalism Certification and Qualifications  


Passing of Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie

In the mid-1990s, the ICS established a linkage with Engineers Ireland (then “Institution of Engineers of Ireland”), recognising the need for suitably qualified and experienced people to be able to become Chartered Engineers. In 1997, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the two organisations and, since then, a number of ICS professional members have been through an appraisal process and been accredited Chartered Engineers.

In addition to the Chartered Engineer qualification, since 2011, the ICS has provided Irish IT professionals a route through to the BCS’s qualification Chartered Information Technology Professional (CITP).Branch and its head office, currently in Swindon.

In 2016, the Society set up a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme. This assists IT professionals to undertake monitored further development and training, with a view to increasing their levels of knowledge and professionalism. CPD is a four-stage process involving setting goals for career development, recording CPD activities undertaken, monitoring and reviewing progress and sharing progress on social media.

Also in 2016, a Masters (MSc) in Applied IT Architecture was launched by the Institute of Technology Tallaght, in conjunction with ICT Ireland Skillnet, the Ireland branch of IASA Global (International Association of Software Architects) and ICS Skills.

-  Standards

The ICS has participated in the development of the European e-Competence Framework that became a European Standard in April 2016. This Standard provides a reference of 40 competences relevant to ICT employment, based on competences, skills and proficiency levels. The European Standard aligns its proficiency levels to learning levels and is designed for use by: ICT service, user and supply organisations; ICT professionals, managers and human resource departments; vocational education institutions and training bodies including higher education; social partners (trade unions and employer associations), professional associations; accreditation, validation and assessment bodies; market analysts and policy makers; and other organizations and stakeholders in public and private sectors.

The ICS is an active participant in the National Standards Authority Ireland (NSAI) Information and Communications Technology Standards Consultative Committee (ICTSCC) and the Health Informatics Standards. Consultative Committee (HISC).

   Relationships with other Irish professional associations  

The Society works with other organisations, each with its own structure, membership and organisation of events/activities – many with an annual conference:

  • Business Analysts Association of Ireland.
  • Association of Data Protection Officers.
  • Health Informatics Society of Ireland (HISI). The ICS also supports the HISI’s Nursing and Midwifery section HISI-NM.
  • Irish Chapter of the IASA – An Association for All IT Architects.
  • itSMF – the IT Service Management Forum.
  • Irish Chapter of the IASA – An Association for All IT Architects.
  • ProRec Ireland – the Irish national body for the EuroRec (the European not-for-profit organisation that promotes the use of high quality Electronic Health Record systems)
  • Visually Impaired Computer Society.

   Training Courses  

For most of the last 50 years, the ICS depended on two principal sources of income: membership fees and conference revenue. Arising from the income resulting from the ECDL and the appointment of a CEO, in the early 2000s the Society sought to develop its services, most importantly by organising training courses aimed at IT professionals. These have been very successful and they have provided the Society with a vital form of diversification and underpin its long-term future.

ICS currently runs a range of courses specifically designed and curated to support its members at reduced rates. Courses are chosen in partnership with industry through the ICS CIO Advisory Board and through member surveys. Some of the current range of courses (in addition to the full suite of ECDL courses) include ICS Leadership Development Programme, Certificate in Business Analysis (QQI Level 8), Finance for IT Professionals, Data Protection Practitioner Certificate Course, PRINCE2 ® Combined Foundation & Practitioner course, How to Run Successful Projects, IASA Core Certification Course, TOGAF 9.1 Foundation + Certified, Introduction to Agile Software Development, DevOps Foundation Certification, IT Asset Management Foundation Certification (ITAMF), and ITIL® Foundation Certificate Course.