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Rural and Community Development | Local communication hubs assistance

To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the degree to which she continues to assist towards the provision of communication hubs at local level to assist in the provision of located-sited enterprises that may be available from major national enterprises; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy, was published in March 2021. The policy recognises the opportunity for rural rejuvenation that remote working presents and commits to establishing a comprehensive and integrated national network of 400 remote working hubs by 2025.

Last year I launched the National Hub Network together with its online booking platform, It is a single network that provides users with information on the location of, and facilities available at, remote working hubs throughout Ireland. The network includes a diverse range of hubs and services, thus facilitating companies of different sizes.

There are currently 295 remote and co-working facilities across the country on-boarded to the platform. This number is growing all the time meaning we are well on track to meet our target of 400 remote working hubs nationwide by 2025.

To date my department has also invested over €100 million to support the establishment, improvement and sustainability of hubs. For example, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme both support the establishment of digital hubs.

Approximately €14 million in funding was allocated to almost 200 projects via the Connected Hubs Call in 2021 and 2022. This allowed for additional remote working capacity to be added to digital hubs and Public Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) throughout the country. A list of successful applicants is available on my Department’s website.

In addition to facilitating online bookings and payments, is also a platform for collecting and disseminating data, not least around the types of hubs available in Ireland. The data drawn from the will contribute to future decisions pertaining to the support that my Department will provide to the sector in future.

To date my focus has been on establishing the Network, on achieving this initial critical mass and on raising awareness of the Network to relevant stakeholders, including SMEs/business owners and new hub users. Following strong progress on the establishment phase of the project, my focus has now shifted to the next stage of development. To this end, officials at my department and their colleagues across government departments will begin drafting of a National Hubs Strategy.

I have always been clear that balanced regional development, sustainable and thriving communities, and indeed the wider national economy will all benefit from workers and employers embracing the remote working revolution. Hubs, whether enterprise or community focused, draw employers and employees to areas of innovation and opportunity, including rural communities.

I am pleased to say that the team have for some time been developing a corporate service to engage with and support corporate clients interested in using our nationwide Network to accommodate their employees, but also to gain access to the vast pool of talent that Ireland has to offer, whether those talented people live in our cities, towns, villages or rural parishes. I believe that this work represents significant opportunities for employers of all sizes to leverage the National Hub Network directly.

I am committed to ensuring that the National Hub Network will continue to make a central contribution to the achievement of the Government’s vision for rural Ireland, as set out in Our Rural Future.

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