Tech Tuesday: Digital is not location dependent
25 October 2016 |
About a 3 minute read
In May this year, the Digital Leaders network ran a research salon in Aberdeen to explore the issues surrounding digital access in rural parts of the UK. The projects presented and explored the critical role of broadband technologies for rural/remote communities and economies, with a particular focus on the role of broadband and its applications for the rural creative industries. Their findings suggest that improved connectivity can impact rural businesses greatly, allowing them to function more competitively, reach wider markets, collaborate with remote colleagues and stay informed of developments in their sectors. Where connection speeds are not adequate, business owners are forced to out-migrate to better connected areas, with implications for the resilience of rural communities more broadly. (See more at digileaders.com)
This topic was of particular interest to me having come from a rural background into a career in digital. The issue is being addressed in Ireland thanks to the Ludgate initiative, where Skibbereen, a town of approx. 3,000 in the south west of Ireland is the country’s first gigabit town and the blueprint for digital proliferation in rural areas.
The Ludgate initiative (named after Percy Ludgate, who lived less than 100 metres from the building and in 1907, created the world’s first portable computer) is the result of the efforts of a group of entrepreneurs, digital ambassadors and local business owners. The group operates as a non-profit company and has worked on a pro-bono basis over the last two years to bring the initiative to life. The board secured €1 million in investment to kick start the project and create a digital blueprint for the town of Skibbereen.
I was in Skibbereen a few months ago and was fortunate enough to get a tour of the building which boasts a 1 gigabit fibre connection, hot-desking space, telepresence suites for conferencing, a green screen room for video production and meeting/presentation rooms. The Ludgate hub currently offers space for up to 75 people in a creative co-working environment with a long term objective to create about 1000 direct/indirect jobs via a sustainable digital economy for Skibbereen and the wider West Cork area. The overarching aim of the initiative is the creation of a blueprint for other rural areas, once disadvantaged by geography, but now enabled by the rapid development of the digital world. Work is already underway to connect 15 more towns around Ireland.
The digitisation of the local economy is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the Ludgate initiative. The gigabit connectivity will not be limited to the Ludgate hub with plans to rollout fully to local businesses and by end of 2016 it is anticipated that all residential properties in the town will be able to avail of the connection. A pilot named eStreet, already underway, has allowed 11 local business to trade online. The Ludgate initiative has built an e-commerce platform for these business and partnered with the postal service to allow these small, family run retailers to reach new markets previously unattainable.
Connectivity on this level has the power to radically change the way rural communities can connect to the global marketplace and Skibbereen has grasped that opportunity fully.
What has been achieved in Skibbereen is a refreshing example of what is possible for those far flung, perhaps less-fashionable-for-tech areas and is showing that digital doesn’t necessarily have to mean London, Dublin, New York etc…
See more for yourself at http://www.ludgate.ie/
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