Policy makers are combining local, national and EU funding to develop digital hubs and co-working spaces in the Midlands Region.
Policy makers are using a multi-fund approach to develop digital hubs/co-working spaces to address the lack of digital infrastructure and co-working facilities in the Region. Policy makers are combining WiFi4EU funds, with matched funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development to establish Wi-Fi into public spaces e.g. community centres. At the same time the government are rolling out high speed broadband to designated Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) in areas where there are no plans for commercial development. For example, BCPs have been designated in 9 locations in County Longford which will then use LEADER Programme funds to develop digital hubs/co-working space. This GP addresses the lack of digital infrastructure, co-working spaces and skilled workforce leaving the Region. According to the 2016 Census almost 24,000 people leave the Region every day for work/ education. The GP reaches its objective by retaining people and capital in the Region by offering free Wi-Fi in community centres. County Councils have accessed WiFi4EU funding, gaining up to 4 vouchers to the value of €60,000 and received matched funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development to install Wi-Fi. Where BCP are established the LEADER programme is used to fit out community centres after connectivity is in place. The main beneficiaries are individuals in the community, start-up companies and SMEs seeking affordable office/learning spaces in their locality.
County Councils used WiFi4EU funding gaining up to 4 vouchers (€15k) to the value of €60,000 and received match funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development to install Wi-Fi.
Evidence of success
At an event organised by Longford County Council in 2019 stakeholders representing SMEs and communities highlighted that the establishment of remote working hubs will add vitality and economic activity to run down town/villages through physical regeneration and local spending.
The GP highlighted a need for upskilling community centre staff in digital skills to support clients using the service. Also privately operated hubs/co-working spaces tended to be more successful than those run by the Councils due to their central location, facilities, storage and broadband speed.
Potential for learning or transfer
This GP has the potential to be transferred to other Irish Regions experiencing similar challenges, as the same funding streams can be accessed. Outside of Ireland the WiFi4EU initiative is open to public sector bodies from the EU Member States and participating EEA countries however matched funded is required to implement the GP.
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