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A long-standing challenge for rural Ireland has been migration to urban areas. With the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic and what can be achieved through remote working, the Our Rural Future plan aims to get more people to stay or settle in non-urban areas.
The plan is committed to providing financial support to local authorities to transform vacant properties in cities into remote work centers. This includes a plan for “over 400 remote work facilities” across the country.
Grainne O’Keeffe has first hand experience in attracting people to a rural town. She runs the Ludgate Hub, a collaborative workspace and start-up support organization in the small town of Skibbereen, about 80 km west of Cork City in the south of Ireland.
Ludgate Hub – named after scientist Percy Ludgate – was established in 2016 and was one of the pioneers of rural start-up efforts.
O’Keeffe told CNBC that Ludgate provides a practical example of attracting founders and employees to a small town.
He operates in a former bakery and opens a second facility in an empty school building later this year. Above all, it attracted individuals whose start-ups make it possible to work remotely, including the start-up Workvivo, supported by Eric Yuan.
O’Keeffe said significant investments in physical infrastructure such as high-speed broadband and finding suitable buildings are essential to making any city viable for remote working.
Skibbereen is connected to broadband through a company run by Vodafone called Siro.
“This is definitely a game-changer for each region. It is fundamental, just like having a building conducive to a working environment, ”she said.
Rural broadband connectivity has been a regular bugbear in Ireland. The government’s National Broadband Plan is rolling out services to previously underserved areas, but it has seen its fair share of delays. Other operators like Eir are in the midst of their own rural deployments while Elon Musk’s Starlink tests in one location in Ireland.
“The campaign has a lot to offer,” he said. “I think remote working is something that can really bring people back to rural areas. “
But he also warned of over-reliance on working from home. As lockdowns ease, the availability of office or office space in towns and villages will be a key part of any strategy, he said.
“Not everyone has a pleasant living space to work. You cannot pressure everyone to work from home. I grew up in the family home and it was chaos. I could never have worked with everyone there. in the house, ”he said.
Separately, a government-funded start-up accelerator called NDRC, which is now run by a consortium of business groups across the country, is focusing on developing start-up ecosystems in more diverse areas. from the country.
One of its members is the RDI Hub, a facility located in the town of Killorglin in County Kerry, in the southwest of the country.
O’Connor is from the region of origin and moved from Dublin with his partner and children a few months before the pandemic arrived.
She said the government’s efforts on remote work centers should focus not only on workers, but also on how they can be integrated into local communities.
“Hubs should be the space where your start-ups and creatives work together. But you also have classes and it becomes the hive of the community and that’s where people come together, ”she said.
Accommodation and transportation
Lately, the activity of institutional investors in the housing market has aroused much public contempt.
O’Keeffe of Ludgate said rural regeneration efforts will need to tackle housing and that both authorities and county councils will need to “recognize that there will be an increase in population and there is a need for housing housing. “.
O’Keeffe recognizes that transport links between rural towns like Skibbereen and neighboring towns like Cork or further afield in Dublin also present challenges.
Flower said there was a significant opportunity being revitalized large swathes of the country that might otherwise be overlooked.
“A shipment of my friends from the last recession left for Australia and Canada and did not return. We need to put images in people’s heads that they can come back and that they can work these world class jobs in remote parts of the country. “