*The Miltown Malbay Digital Hub. Photograph: Eamon Ward
Clare is targeting becoming the remote working capital of Ireland.
Director of Service, Leonard Cleary made the declaration at Tuesday’s meeting of the West Clare Municipal District. He outlined that new funding streams for the provision of digital hubs are being made available, “Our overall goal is to make Clare the remote working capital of Ireland”. Cleary stated that a comprehensive plan was being compiled by officials within the local authority.
A goal of opening an additional six digital hubs by the end of the year has been set by leading officials within the Council. An in-house working group has been preparing a report since July which is due to be completed by September on the subject.
Councillors had discussed the latest draft on a plan of strategic projects for West Clare with Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) making the observation that many projects such as the digital hubs were similar in style. “It is a very good draft but we need to set priorities so it is not a wish list”.
West Clare representatives have highlighted the potential benefits of digital hubs to the county with Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) recently tabling a motion before the County Council. He requested the local authority to set aside similar resources in staffing, planning, implementation and marketing for the digital hubs “in attracting people to come and live here permanently as they do to attracting tourists”.
COVID-19 has “completed changed the landscape of working,” Cllr Murphy outlined. “We have to take all the amazing infrastructure and make it work for us, add in everything the county has. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Clare County Council could do very well to partner with Grow Remote”.
“We have shown we can do it with tourism strategy,” Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) believed as he called for a team to be put together to develop Murphy’s suggestion “We have seen the value of rural living during COVID-19,” he said.
Connectivity and access to strong broadband are essential, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) noted. “The restrictions have also pointed out how inept the broadband issues are. Continuity of connection in outback places not possible”. He added, “The hubs do work and help. We have seen the effectiveness of people working from home but the proper tools like connectivity matter”.
Efforts on the provision of digital hubs have been redoubled, Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling confirmed. “It is remote working not necessarily working from home, I would like Clare to be the home of remote working, I want to brand Clare as the home of remote working”. The international market is to be exploited by the local authority, he revealed. “We haven’t been asleep around this, we see a huge opportunity. It is difficult because it is a cultural shift for local Government, we don’t normally do things this way”.