DIGITALHQ welcomes launch Government’s ‘DIGITAL IRELAND FRAMEWORK’ & ‘TOWN CENTRES FIRST’ policies



It's the old adage, you wait ages for a bus and then 2 come at the same time!


Last week saw the Government release its long awaited National Digital Strategy (the previous one was released in 2013) and the first ever national strategy for town's, called 'Town Centre First'.


Over the past number of years DigitalHQ has been very much to the fore on both these key areas of digitalisation and regeneration of town centres and their small business communities. The language throughout both new Government strategies is directly aligned with DigitalHQ's established mission and published documents.

Also of note is that the word ‘digital’ appears 21 times in the Town Centre First strategy and 581 times in the new National Digital Strategy. The mission statement of the Town Centre First policy is 100% aligned with our published strategy. i.e. it "aims to create town centres that function as viable, vibrant and attractive locations for people to live, work and visit, while also functioning as the service, social, cultural and recreational hub for the local community”.


In the summary we have selected highlights that align with our work and bolded words and concepts that are directly aligned with our mission at DigitalHQ.


TOWN CENTRES FIRST - launched 4th Feb 2022


Press Release key points (relevant highlights)


  • Major new strategy to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into town centres

  • Unprecedented investment to make our towns better places to live, work and raise a family.

  • Suite of supports and tools to help businesses and local communities deliver on their unique vision for their area.


Town Centre First contains 33 unique actions which will give our towns the tools and resources they need to become more viable and attractive places in which to live, work, visit and run a business.


For the first time, designated towns will gain their own dedicated Town Regeneration Officers, who will be crucial to driving future development.


Minister Humphreys quote


“This is about bringing together our businesses, our local authorities and our town teams - so that they are at the fore when it comes to planning for the future development of their communities. we will ensure our towns become even better places to live, work and raise a family.”


Minister for Heritage Noonan


“The Government’s 'Town Centres First' policy seeks to support, enable and inspire communities to be active participants in the heritage-led regeneration of their towns and villages. This in turn will re-invigorate independent retail and promote town centre living, supporting local economic resilience through the co-creation of liveable, vibrant, nature-friendly urban spaces.


QUOTE FROM THE OFFICIAL INTRO


The Town Centre First policy aims to create town centres that function as viable, vibrant and attractive locations for people to live, work and visit, while also functioning as the service, social, cultural and recreational hub for the local community.


Irish towns are facing significant challenges and opportunities that require a coordinated and comprehensive response. This Town Centre First policy will facilitate that response by towns of all sizes across the country so that their centres can function as the sustainable and vibrant heart of the communities they serve, in ways that are adaptable and appropriate to 21st Century needs.


The plan will introduce (edited relevant highlights) -


  • Capacity building programmes for Town Teams to increase the skills and capabilities of Town Teams and enable them to deliver effectively.”

  • A Town Centre First Toolkit to include a Web Portal which will provide access to all available TCF resources and funding. The Toolkit will provide a best practice model for developing TCF plans that is informed by existing models and include specific strands targeting key issues associated with the development of our towns such as climate action, digitalisation, enterprise development and social purpose.


Chapter 2 Opportunities for Our Towns and Villages


2.2 | Digital Transformation and New Ways of Working and Living


In response to ..COVID 19...this change in working practices town centres can become attractive places for workers to live or engage in connected working spaces. Increased investment in remote working hubs that are in locations that suit commuters and are close to childcare facilities will also potentially attract people to live in towns. The ongoing development of the National Hub Network under the ConnectedHubs.ie brand will, for the first time, facilitate a strategic, nationwide, understanding of this increasingly important infrastructure.


There is also the opportunity to utilise technology to enhance the experience of living and working in towns, and to integrate digital technology into daily commercial and social life. Digital technology can improve the quality and accessibility of services, and can be used to address challenges faced by our towns, providing them with new roles in the digital economy.


4.4. | National Best Practice and Guidance


Best practice guidance and tools will be required to support the implementation of the TCF Policy and facilitate the Town Regeneration Officers and Town Teams to follow exemplary practice tailored to an Irish setting.


This guidance will form part of a national Town Centre First Toolkit. The Toolkit will

inform the approach to town regeneration and will encompass specific strands targeting

key factors such as urban development, economic purpose (enterprise development),

social function, culture, community engagement, digitalisation, sustainable

mobility, accessibility and climate action.


Action 6 Develop a new national Toolkit to support the implementation of the TCF Policy by providing a range of examples of best practice and available resources to guide implementation. The Toolkit will include:


(vi) A TCF Web Portal to provide an accessible and central dashboard to navigate the TCF Framework including the National Toolkit, National Policies, Sectoral supports, available funding and specific enabling tools nationally;


(vii) Specific strands targeting key factors such as urban development, economic purpose,

social function, digitalisation, sustainable mobility, community engagement and climate action;


DIGITAL IRELAND FRAMEWORK - Ireland’s new National Digital Strategy


Mission - to drive and enable the digital transition across the Irish economy and society.


The Digital Ireland Framework will help to maximise the well-being of Irish people and their businesses, the length and breadth of the country. It will help us fully realise many of the benefits of digital including: more flexible and remote working and new job opportunities; new markets and customers for businesses


  • Providing digital skills for all – from school, to further and higher education, to life-long learning, with a target of increasing the share of adults with at least basic digital skills to 80% by 2030;

  • Helping small businesses benefit from digital opportunities by providing grants and assistance, with a target of 90% of SME at basic digital intensity by 2030 and 75% enterprise take-up in cloud, AI and big data;

  • Playing a leading role in Europe right across the digital agenda.


This digital strategy aligns with both EU priorities, under the Digital Decade, and national priorities, under the 2021 Economic Recovery Plan and Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It also complements our work towards achieving Ireland’s climate targets, with our green and digital ambitions re-enforcing each other.


“Our new digital strategy aims to maximise the potential of online to increase the well-being of Irish people and our small businesses. We want to build on Ireland’s successes, with new job and business opportunities, more efficient and accessible Government services, more flexible working, a better work-life balance, and better sustainability.


The Tánaiste highlighted the importance of digitalisation for SMEs and the wider benefits for citizens.


“More and more, digital will be part of the fabric of our everyday lives and the Government wants to make sure that everyone is prepared for this. The experience of the pandemic has shown how rapid the pace of change has been. This Strategy is about taking advantage of new technologies for the benefit of all citizens and businesses.”


Ossian Smyth - “The digital transition, enabled by universal, high-quality connectivity, will be particularly important for our decarbonisation transition, with digital technologies supporting the achievement of our climate targets, for example optimising energy use or reducing emission through less commuting. The Strategy sets out a coherent framework to oversee the increased uptake of digital technologies across all sectors of the economy and society.


Preparing for tomorrow’s economy and society means seizing the opportunities presented by digital technologies and will enable us to chart a course of recovery that is open, collaborative and responsive to new developments on the horizon.”


REPORT EXTRACTS


What is it - “Harnessing Digital – The Digital Ireland Framework” seeks to position Ireland as a digital leader, driving and enabling digital transformation across the economy and society. It is set out across four core dimensions, which are in line with the four cardinal points of the EU’s Digital Compass: Digital Transformation of Business; Digital Infrastructure; Skills; and Digitalisation of Public Services


To support the achievement of our ambitions, the Government will:


  • Drive a step-change in the digital transformation of businesses, in particular SMEs; sustain Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for leading digital enterprises; and maximise the benefits of the digital transition for the wider ecosystem;


  • Deliver skills for all to ensure all cohorts in society can engage with, and benefit from digitalisation – this includes high-level digital skills, broader digital skills for the wider labour market, and digital skills for society more generally;


AMBITION of the Strategy


Ireland and the world are at an important industrial, economic and societal turning

point due to a number of transformational challenges, led by the twin digital and

decarbonisation transitions. Digital technologies are becoming more embedded

in daily life, accelerated in particular by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has

demonstrated the power of digital technologies in helping us to respond to seismic challenges. Ireland will harness the power of digital to tackle the big challenges we face in the coming years – achieving our climate change goals, driving balance and

inclusivity, and enhancing productivity.


Ireland’s goal is to be a digital leader at the heart of European and global digital

Developments. Ireland seeks to be a thought leader, shaping the debate at Europe and beyond


Digital technologies can make the lives of all our citizens better through the creation of new job opportunities and new ways of working; greater and more equitable access to personal, social and civic opportunities; and improved accessible government services for everyone. All groups will be supported and empowered to benefit from digital opportunities including businesses small and large, communities urban and rural, and people young and old; leveraging Ireland’s strengths to bridge the digital divide across enterprise and wider society.


Driving the digital transition and related technologies, will also support the achievement of our climate targets, with green and digital ambitions reinforcing each other.


Our ambition is rooted in enhancing Ireland’s economic model and distinct ecosystem, empowerment and ensuring an inclusive approach. This means driving a step change in SMEs;


Target - 90% of SMEs at basic digital intensity by 2030


Pursue a coherent, integrated, proactive approach to the digital transition, through a robust ecosystem and strong enablers.


DIMENSION 3 SKILLS


Deliver Digital Skills for Society, to enable all cohorts to engage with digitalisation.


Dimension 1: Digital Transformation of Business


. The Government seeks to increase adoption of digital technologies by all businesses, in particular SMEs;


It is a priority for Government to drive a step change in digital adoption in all enterprises. To be successful, digital transformation requires not just the use of technology, but changes in culture, leadership, skills and processes.


Support the development of workforce skills in SMEs to support digital adoption, including promoting the benefits of workplace training.


Test beds for digital innovation


Ireland wants to be a leading international test bed for digital solutions and to achieve this will work to remove regulatory obstacles and develop a supportive ecosystem for

testbeds in strategic areas, for example, future mobility.


1.3 Broader Economic Digital Dividends


Placing a greater emphasis on the research and innovation in SMEs and increasing their

absorptive capacity in general, and in the digital sphere in particular, as well as

leveraging a dynamic national clustering system,


A National Clustering Policy and Framework is currently being developed to maximise

the potential of clustering as a policy tool to deliver national enterprise policy objectives including supporting the green and digital transition. Indeed, the digital

imperative is made more urgent due to its interlinkages with our green ambitions, as highlighted in our Climate Action Plan 2021 – with digital technologies playing a key role in enabling the achievement of our climate targets.


Nurturing Digital Start-ups


Ireland has a strong ecosystem for start-up and early stage companies, including a

programme of financial and development supports for innovative start-ups provided

by the enterprise agencies. This ecosystem will be leveraged to nurture a new

generation of digital start-ups.


2.1 Digital Connectivity - the delivery of connectivity to even the most remote

rural locations; facilitating the joining up of national networks, for example

libraries, to Broadband Connection Points and Connected Hubs; and supporting

the development of networks of regional innovation hubs. Full delivery of the

National Broadband Plan is a vital enabler.


Digital Technologies and Sustainability


Digital technologies have a vital role to play in reducing energy and resource use, in enabling decarbonisation while maintaining social and economic welfare and in gathering and analysing data of importance to the tasks of mitigating and adapting to climate change, and protecting and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems. However, it is not inevitable that the spread of digital technologies will have these effects.

The environmental impacts of digital technologies themselves can be negative and

substantial. This includes energy demands, resource use and generation of pollution

and waste.


Dimension 3: Skills


As highlighted by the OECD3 new digital technologies are reshaping the way people

live, work and learn. This trajectory is intensifying and has been accelerated by

the COVID-19 pandemic. Digitalisation will increasingly have profound and long-

lasting impacts on the world of work. It is of fundamental importance to the skills

and competencies people need to secure, retain and flourish in employment and

the ongoing development of a workforce which can adapt successfully to the digital

Revolution.


For Ireland to be an international leader in the digital economy, our skills policy must

be focused on meeting digital skills needs at all levels. This includes:


• High-Level Digital Skills: Ensuring a strong pipeline of talent and expertise for

the economy through the development of high-level digital skills;

• Digital Skills for the Labour Market: Supporting appropriate levels of digital

skills for the labour force as a whole; and

• Digital Skills for Society: Ensuring digital skills for the general population,

to enable all cohorts to fully engage in society, and benefit from digital

Transformation.


3.1 Impact of Digital Technologies on Employment


Over the next decade digitalisation, along with the impact of the essential ‘greening’ of jobs, is expected to lead to a reconfiguration of Ireland’s workforce. Digital technologies are driving a new wave of automation, and workers must be supported in developing and adapting their skillsets to accommodate these changes. Some occupations are expected to largely disappear; other occupations will be done very differently as digital technology complements workers in the task they carry out. In addition, new technologies are creating new occupations via the emergence of new or substantially re engineered tasks.


These forces are projected to create substantial disruption to existing patterns of employment. The measures and actions undertaken to prepare the present and future workforce for digital transformation will shape the outcome for employment.


Typically, lower educated workers subject to skills gaps in digital and transversal skills are at greater risk of employment losses. Skills development is crucial for redesigning jobs that increasingly involve working alongside new technologies.


Ireland will work closely with the EU Commission, including providing a national Digital Decade Strategic Roadmap covering the period up to 2030, which will set out how Ireland will contribute to achieving at EU level, the overall objectives and digital targets.


The European vision for 2030, the forthcoming Digital Decade, is a digital society

where no-one is left behind. The goal of the Digital Decade is the successful digital

transformation of Europe by 2030 and for the Union to be digitally sovereign in an

open and interconnected world


CONCLUSION


This new strategies are directly aligned with DigitalHQ's mission and strategy and we look forward to playing our part in helping the achievement of the exciting vision for a future Ireland contained in both.

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