Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
124. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which she continues to develop the concept of digital hubs with a view to facilitating employers and employees who may wish to replicate the original workspace location with a virtual presence resulting in a situation of benefit to both employers and employees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38181/21]
The increased shift to remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity for a greater regional distribution of jobs and to support a better quality of life for many people who previously spent many hours in long commutes. This is a key focus of the Government's new rural development policy Our Rural Future.
Remote working, supported by appropriate infrastructure and facilities, has the potential to encourage more people to live in rural areas while working in good quality jobs, no matter where their employer is based. It can also help revitalise our rural town if remote working hubs are developed in their centres.
I launched the National Hub Network, connectedhubs.ie, on 31 May in the Swinford Digiwest Hub in Co. Mayo. Since the launch, 113 hubs have signed on and are now using the platform, with an additional 49 hubs in the process of being onboarded. Furthermore, the number of hubs identified through the Western Development Commission's hub discovery process has increased to 505. These are in the process of being verified before they are mapped on connectedhubs.ie/nationalhubsmap.html. This interactive map provides useful information in relation to each of the hubs and the services that are available at each site.
My Department also continues to invest significantly in the development of new Hub facilities across the country. Since 2015, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme has provided €7.8m in funding to hubs and hub-related projects. Many of the successful projects involve the regeneration of historic town centre buildings as Enterprise and Co-Working Hubs.
I recently announced funding of €15 million that is available under the 2021 Town & Village Renewal Scheme (TVRS). In line with Our Rural Future, a key focus of this year’s scheme is to renovate derelict and vacant buildings in our town centres, and specifically supports bringing vacant properties in town centres back into use or repurpose existing community or publicly owned buildings as remote working hubs.
In addition, I have also allocated €5 million to fund a Connected Hubs Call this year. This initiative will provide funding to support small scale capital works in existing hubs and Broadband Connection Points. Applications are currently being evaluated by my officials and I expect to shortly be in a position to announce the results of the evaluation process.