Monday, 29 March 2021

 

·         Broadband roll-out to bring new opportunities in areas like eHealth, remote learning, online trading, and new technologies

·         Major focus on attracting Remote Workers to rural communities

Our Rural Future, the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in decades was published on the 29th March 2021.

The policy reflects the unprecedented change in living and working patterns during COVID-19 and the significant opportunities this presents for rural communities – from remote working and revitalising our town centres to job creation, developing a green economy, and enhancing our outdoor amenities.

High-quality digital connectivity offers an unprecedented opportunity to transform rural Ireland. It will support the sustainability of rural communities by enabling more people to continue to live and work in rural locations and encouraging others to relocate to rural areas

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity in supporting many aspects of our daily lives. Throughout the crisis, digital connectivity helped many people to avoid becoming socially isolated; it enabled students to continue their education through online learning, and it demonstrated its potential to support economic activity through remote working and the delivery of services on-line.

Over the lifetime of this policy, improved connectivity and digital innovation will help communities to have greater outreach. It will support older people to live independently in their communities, but with access to more supports and services through connected technologies. It will mean a better quality of life for rural dwellers, enabling people to access online information and resources including the provision of online services such as education and personalised health care.

The greater prevalence of home and remote working arising out of COVID-19 has provided a boost in trade for local businesses and highlights an opportunity for rural towns and villages to benefit from this new way of working, including through the provision of facilities for remote working and ancillary services.

An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar said:

We want to have more people working in all parts of Ireland, with good quality jobs on offer and good career prospects. The COVID-19 pandemic has already shown us what’s possible in terms of remote working and flexible working. Our Rural Future is one of the ways that the Government is making that a permanent option.

Our Rural Future will help the tourism and hospitality sectors to recover after the pandemic, create jobs in the Green Economy and the Agri-food sector, and make it easier to set up and grow a business in Rural Ireland.

It means more people will be able to live in their communities or move to new ones, with the option of good quality employment. It will mean less commuting, and more vibrant communities as people have more time to spend with their families, their neighbours, and local clubs and organisations.

Broadband and new technologies are key to making this happen. That work has already started. I am proud to have been part of the Government that kicked off the National Broadband Plan – the biggest investment in rural Ireland since electrification. And I’m equally proud to be part of the Government that is now making it happen.

The National Broadband Plan will deliver high-speed broadband services to all premises in Ireland through a combination of commercial investment and State intervention in areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest. These intervention areas are primarily in rural locations. Up to €2.7 billion of Exchequer funding will be invested in the intervention areas to provide a future-proofed high-speed broadband network to nearly 600,000 premises, including new builds. The NBP is the largest infrastructural project in rural Ireland since rural electrification, spanning 96% of Ireland’s landmass. It will bring high-speed broadband to 23% of Ireland’s population and 69% of the national total of farms.

Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte said:

I have made it my mission to ensure my constituents who wish to study, work and live from home have a fit-for-purpose broadband service available to them to do just so.  I have held meetings both at national and local government level with the relevant stakeholders to bring more transparency to the rollout of broadband in our rural towns and villages.  And I will continue to search for meaningful timelines from the relevant stakeholders.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan stated:

Now is the time to be ambitious for rural Ireland. The government’s investment in climate action will bring new job opportunities to rural communities, in areas such as renewable energy, retrofitting, and sustainable farming and tourism. The National Broadband Plan will act as a key enabler for the development of new businesses in regional and rural Ireland, together with an increased opportunity for people to work from home. Through the Just Transition Fund, Government is supporting the retraining and reskilling of rural workers and assisting local communities and businesses to adjust to the low carbon transition.