Denis O’Brien is Chairman of the privately-owned Digicel Group, one of the fastest growing communications providers in the world. Denis is one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs with extensive investments across several sectors including international telecoms, radio, media, property, aircraft leasing, golf and other leisure interests. He also founded Communicorp Group which owns and manages a portfolio of media and broadcasting-related companies in Ireland and seven other European countries. Denis founded Digicel in 2001 when the company launched a GSM cellular phone service in the Caribbean. Digicel Group has extended its operations to 32 markets with annual revenues of over US$2.3 billion and over 13 million subscribers in the Caribbean, Pacific and Central and South American regions. Digicel has invested in excess of US$5 billion in these locations. For several years, Denis has advocated for the implementation of regulatory and taxation structures for OTT players and digital service providers, including financial contributions to the cost of Telecommunications and broadband infrastructure in the developing world. For too long, telecoms companies have had to fund broadband infrastructure on which OTT’s have built a vastly profitable business. Prior to Digicel, in 1991, Denis founded the Esat Telecom Group plc to compete against the former state-owned incumbent in Ireland, Eircom plc. Esat quickly established itself as the number two telecommunications company across the full spectrum of telecommunications services, including fixed-line, mobile, data and broadband. Esat was sold to British Telecom Group plc in January 2000 for €2.4 billion. Outside of his extensive business interests, Denis chaired the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland. It was the first time the Summer Games were staged outside the US; with teams from 160 countries and over 30,000 volunteers, the 2003 Summer Games were the most successful ever. In addition, Denis is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Frontline Defenders, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Based in Dublin, Frontline works to ensure that the standards set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998, are known, respected and adhered to worldwide. Frontline’s work consists of research, advocacy, communications/technical assistance and emergency evacuation of human rights activists. In 2000, he established The Iris O’Brien Foundation to identify and assist projects in Ireland and internationally which aim to alleviate disadvantaged communities. In addition, as the founder and patron of Digicel Foundations in Jamaica, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago, Denis and his team work to help create a world where no one gets left behind through interventions in education, Special Needs, health and community development and these have benefited over 2.76 million people through 220 projects and investments of US$131 million to date. Denis holds a BA degree from University College Dublin and an MBA from Boston College. He provided funds to endow the Denis O’Brien Fellowship for Irish students at Boston College and is the primary benefactor of the O’Brien Centre for Science at University College Dublin. Follow Denis on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
The Internet enables eCommerce and digital players on a global scale yet half the world is still without broadband. Africa needs an investment of $100B in new broadband networks. There is a collective responsibility of all players deriving revenue from broadband connectivity to contribute to the cost of building it. I call on all Commissioners to unite on this issue.