Today, Wednesday 16th is Ireland’s inaugural ‘Digital First’ Day, a nationwide initiative to tackle the digital divide at all levels of our society and to advance economic and social regional development across the country. The day of events will be delivered by a national team effort brought together by the Connected Hubs network and underpinned by collaboration, volunteering and a team effort on a large scale.
Over 50 Connected Hubs across Ireland will host free demonstrations, inspirational talks, workshops and tutorials themed around the four pillars of vibrant localities, senior citizens, children, small businesses and remote workers. The objective of the day of events is to show local communities the benefits of digital growth to support these groups while enabling their locality to attract investment, remote workers, home buyers, shoppers and visitors to their local community. It’s happening in towns and villages across the nation, from Killorglin Co. Kerry, to Kiltimon in Wicklow and from Belmullet, Co. Mayo to Carndonagh in Donegal.
Speaking about the initiative, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection and Minister for Rural and Community Development said “This is a vitally important initiative that brings together key components of a number of significant Government policies, not least my own Department’s National Social Enterprise Policy and Our Rural Future. Central to this is the need to close the digital divide, both at an individual level and in collective terms. Communities must be supported to leverage new technologies and new ways of doing things to ensure growth. I want vibrant, bustling towns and villages and this initiative will certainly contribute to that ambition. ‘Digital First’ Day is a resource for all communities to get involved through their local ConnectedHub so that no one gets left behind.”
This national moment of focus around the benefits of digital will demonstrate in practical ways the key themes of ‘Digital First’ Day, namely to illustrate the importance of collaboration and volunteering in sharing expertise and to highlight the opportunities of hub led growth in reimagining rural Ireland. The full list of events in available on www.digital-ireland.ie, some highlights include;
Gteic @Béal a Mhuirthead hub, Belmullet, Co Mayo has transformed the employment possibilities in the North Mayo Gaeltacht and has greatly enhanced prospects in a region which has struggled historically, due to high levels of emigration and a dearth of opportunity. It is now a thriving hub of remote workers and through its online event will feature; Aoife O Connor, CATI manager of IPSOS MRBI who, during the pandemic, set up a satellite office there and now employs 50 people in the area with local talent and Rita Boyle, Cofounder of Pangea who as a member of the diaspora set up a European base in Donegal.
In Edgeworthstown, Co. Galway, Co: Worx hub is showing local small businesses how to get a major boost through digital transformation. Visitors will hear from a team of experts who will share their experiences with digitalisation including Joan Mulvihill, Digitalisation & Sustainability Lead at Siemens, Jenna Farrell, Creative Director and tech entrepreneur at Scopey, Alison McMurtrie, Founder of Idunn and tech entrepreneur at CyberPie. Finally, one of 50 Microsoft volunteers supporting connected hubs across the country, Rosie Martin, Principal Design Manager at Microsoft will also be in attendance.
For small businesses, BloomHQ hub, Mountrath, Laois will look at the repopulation of rural Ireland through digitalisation including rural regeneration through hubs and the green agenda and advise how to make your business visible to visitors and new people in the community. Learn how to complete a Digital Audit and get set up on Google Business and Google Maps. Have a chat with other business owners, and hear more about the Digital Ireland Network and its aims to support rural regeneration.
Digital First Day is for everyone including younger people and senior citizens; Killoscully Community Hub, Tipperary in partnership with Trinity College Dublin will present ‘Our Kids Code’ featuring hands-on programming and interaction with digital devices for four local primary schools. Microsoft will also be presenting Dream Space which engages students and teachers in STEAM digital skills learning.
With a focus on Agri Tech, Hub 13 @Jacksmill, Kiltimon, Co Wicklow, was established in 2019 in a sawmill and joinery workshop to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to live, work and grow in an inspiring and sustainable local environment. It will host a series of talks on the theme of rural connectivity, smart village development and how digital connectivity can turbo charge rural communities’ success and assist rural life especially small farm diversification, inter-village connectivity and revitalising our communities. It will address the impact of Town Centre First initiatives and Smart Villages. Speakers include Donal Kearney of Grow Remote and a representative from the Local Enterprise Office to talk about Trading Online Vouchers and Green Transition Assistance.
Stephen Carolan, National Hub Network Programme Manager at ConnectedHubs commented: “We believe that the hub network, across the country can act as a catalyst for communities to bring about the social change at scale envisioned in ‘Our Rural Future’. With almost 300 hubs now on board the platform and at least 400 to be onboarded by 2024, these hubs are perfectly positioned to drive digital growth, attracting economic and social development in communities in every part of Ireland.”
Peter Hendrick, Chief Executive of National Broadband Ireland said: “National Broadband Ireland is delighted to be sponsoring Digital First Day. Our mission is to decentralise opportunity by bridging the digital divide. We are actively working in every county in Ireland to roll out our high speed fibre network and provide access to guaranteed minimum speeds of 500MB. The connected hubs network and the experiences of the community projects being showcased at this event well represent the transformational power and profound benefits of high-speed broadband, and we look forward to more and more connected communities across Ireland as our rollout continues to gather pace.”
The newly appointed Digital Champion for the Digital Ireland network, Eoin Costello, said “DigitalHQ is delighted that our inaugural ‘Digital First’ Day has really captured the public imagination. As well as delivering this national initiative our contribution to this new ‘Digital First’ movement is to our book “Digital First Communities – A better way to live and work” which will be launched today! It distils our blueprint for hub led vibrant localities which we hope will continue the legacy of the day itself into the future”.
Digital First Day is part funded through the Department of Rural & Community Development ARISE fund and sponsored by the Western Development Commission, National Broadband Ireland and the gteic network. Founding organisations include Connected Hubs, DigitalHQ, the national domain registry .IE, National Broadband Ireland, the Heritage Council’s CTCHC Programme, DLR County Council, An Cosán, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Western Development Commission and Grow Remote.