Tuesday, 10 November 2020
Department of Rural and Community Development
835. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the degree to which she sees the development of digital hubs as a means of reducing daily commuter traffic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35410/20]
The ecosystem of hubs and other facilities throughout the country offering remote working services are a significant support to both remote workers and students at the present time. These facilities cover the spectrum from fully commercially-operating business models, to public sector and social enterprise hubs.
A recent Western Development Commission (WDC) policy paper on remote working in the western region highlights that it is estimated that if 10% of the working population were to work remotely for 1 day a week, there would be a reduction of approximately 10 million car journeys per annum. This is in addition to other benefits such as carbon emission savings and an increased work/life balance.
The WDC has mapped over 100 remote working hubs within the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) region alone, covering the area from Co. Kerry to Co. Donegal. The WDC's objective is to develop these hubs into a cohesive network of facilities in the AEC region for remote workers, students and for community use. The AEC hub network will include a common booking engine for clients, and collaboration tools to facilitate cross-network engagement between both managers and clients in the hubs.
In addition, 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) will be connected in remote rural areas across the country over the coming months to provide public access to free high-speed broadband services. Many of these BCPs will also provide capacity for remote working and study in rural areas.
My Department has invested significantly in remote working facilities over the last number of years through programmes such as the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Libraries programme.
An additional €5 million was allocated to my Department in Budget 2021 to build on the AEC hub network model and support the further development of remote working hubs in our rural towns and villages. An Interdepartmental Working Group, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, has been convened to progress this project.