Rural Munster shares in €5m funding for remote working hubs

Several rural Munster locations are to get funding for digital hubs and other remote working facilities, from a €15.4 million grant package announced by Rural and Community Development Minister Heather Humphreys, for 147 towns and villages nationwide.

Included is €57,690 of aid to provide ICT equipment and furniture for broadband connection points (BCPs) in 17 Co Cork villages.

They are Aghabullogue; Aubane, Millstreet; Ballindangan, Mitchelstown; Ballydaly, Rathmore; Bere Island; Castletownkenneigh, Enniskeane; Clogagh, Timoleague; Cape Clear Island; Courtbrack, Blarney; Glash, Newmarket; Inch, Killeagh; Laharn Cross, Lombardstown; Lisavaird, Clonakilty; Mealagh Valley, Bantry; Sherkin Island; Labbamolaga, Mitchelstown; and Whitechurch.

The aim is to equip BCPs with furniture and ICT equipment to maximise the potential of remote working and facilitate immediate access to high-speed broadband in a Covid19-compliant manner.

BCPs are publicly accessible sites in rural and isolated areas, including some islands, selected to receive high-speed connectivity in the first year of the National Broadband Plan.

By mid-December, 162 sites had the initial connection established by National Broadband Ireland.

In total, 300 BCP sites nationwide have been named.

Each community centre will have different requirements, depending on size and capacity, from the €57,690 of aid announced last week. Under this proposal, community groups would avail of a range of options for each BCP, including video conferencing solutions, large screen digital TVs, projectors, computer network switches, door access or CCTV systems, desks, chairs, perspex screens, access to online cloud backups and cloud storage systems, and digital cameras.

This aid would help community groups and rural communities to develop more digital skills whilst adhering to new Covid-19 social distancing protocols, with opportunities to facilitate digital training classes, remote working hubs, video conferencing and video calling, online training, digital teaching for teachers and lecturers, Internet of Things technology within each community centre, access to online backup systems and solutions, security and anti-virus solutions, participation in remote learning for second and third-level students, meetings for local enterprises and SMEs with access to high-quality broadband in a socially distanced environment, development of digital youth clubs, and live streaming of community events and activities.

Minister Humphreys said Covid-19 has highlighted the huge opportunities in remote working presents for regional development.

“I am particularly delighted that a number of the projects approved today will support remote working, enabling people to work from their own local community into the future.

“While remote working was just a concept a year ago, it has now become an everyday working reality for tens of thousands of people as a result of Covid-19. I am pleased to see so many communities embrace this new reality as they seek to develop remote working facilitieS, eHubs and co-working spaces.”

The €15.4m grant package includes €5m in funding specifically for development of more remote working hubs in rural towns and villages.

In Co Limerick, €89,550 is allocated for development of a community services and eHub facility, with eight PC stations, a tea/coffee room, toilets, an office and conference room, at Doon, near Cappamore.

In Co Waterford, €56,856 is allocated for installation of IT infrastructure in the community hall to create a remote hub, plus installation of a bus shelter and of tourism information signage, at Knockanore, near Youghal and Tallow.

In Co Clare, €200,000 is allocated for completion of phase two of regeneration of a derelict building into an enterprise hub with remote working/hot desk facilities, a commercial cookery school, and a youth café, at Newmarket On Fergus

In Co Kerry, wi-fi access points are included in projects at Portmagee including undergrounding of the overhead utility network and incorporation of electric vehicle charging, for which there is funding of €200,000.

For Castleisland, there is €96,300 of funding for phase one of an urban connectivity project and study to develop proposals for vacant and derelict properties.

There is €94,500 of funding for a Milltown project to include a scoping study for an innovation space and business hub and enhancement of the historic square in the town centre; the production of in the town.

Around the country, digital hubs are planned for five Co Wexford villages, with €600,000 of grant aid going to Clohamon, Boolavogue, Ballymitty, Taghmon, and Clongeen.

In Co Galway, nearly €400,000 of grant aid is available for projects at Claregalway, Leitir Mór, and Creggs, each including digital hubs or ICT facilities.

There’s €134,000 to fund remote working facilities at Dysart, Co Roscommon, and Ardagh, Co Longford.

Funding of €45,000 is allocated for provision of ICT equipment, furniture and screening to five Broadband Connection Point locations in Co Laois, at Vicarstown, Emo, Killeshin, Donaghmore and Camross. Separately, there is €79,303 for a community café, remote working and training facility at Rathdowney (and development of space for a farmers’ and artisan market); and €59,558 for furnishing and equipping an eLearning hub at Durrow.

In Co Kildare, there is €89,533 to upgrade facilities in the Community Enterprise Centre, to improve the Broadband Connection Point, and install hot desk points, in Athy.

BCP venues in the Co Dublin villages of Rolestown and Lusk are to get €21,600 of funding, and SMART technologies infrastructure is included for  a community enterprise building in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, among projects qualifying for grant aid of €70,000.

As well as supporting remote working in rural communities, the €15.4m in funding for 147 rural towns and villages is focused on developing outdoor amenities and enhancing public spaces, including walkways, community parks, outdoor cinemas, and cycleways.

Examples of successful projects include a biodiversity park at Stradbally, Co Waterford, including natural paving, seating, bespoke bike stands, and interpretative wildlife signage, for which total funding of €88,615 is allocated.

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and administered through the local authorities, in consultation with local communities.

Local authorities were invited to submit 10 projects each for 2020. Following an assessment of these projects, 147 towns and villages countrywide will receive the €15.4m funding.

An additional €10.4m was allocated to 363 towns and villages since August 2020.